DETROIT – On Feb. 11, 1957, Detroit Red Wings forward Ted Lindsay and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Doug Harvey put their on-ice rivalry aside and teamed up to lead the charge in forming a players union.
The NHLPA would not become a formal union for another 10 years, but it was thanks to Lindsay’s and Harvey’s risk to break ranks that it eventually came to fruition.
For his actions to help protect players from what he saw a raw deals from ownership, Red Wings owner Jack Adams sent Lindsay packing to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks. He played in Chicago for three years.
“I was treated very well by the Chicago fans. (But) I didn’t play as well, because I was still a Red Wing. I had it tattooed on the forehead, over my heart and on my backside,” said Lindsay.
He retired from hockey in 1960 and went into private business. But Sid Abel, Lindsay’s old linemate, took over as Red Wings coach in 1964.
“He said, ‘Well why don’t you come back and play.’ I hadn’t played for four years,” Lindsay said.
He played pickup hockey in Windsor to stay in shape. He rejoined the Red Wings as No. 15, because his No. 7 had been taken.
The headlines called it a sideshow. Even league president Clarence Campbell doubted “Terrible Ted.”
“(Campbell called it) the blackest day in the league history, when a 39-year-old guy thinks he can play in the fastest game in the world,” said Lindsay.
Lindsay had 14 goals and 14 assists that year, and Campbell apologized after the Red Wings won the season championship.
Lindsay then retired for good. He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame the next year but refused to attend the ceremony because they held it in a men’s-only club and his wife and kids could not be there.
Lindsay died March 4, 2019, at the age of 93. He left a lasting legacy as a fierce supporter of players’ rights, youth hockey outreach and more.
“Ted was a persistent, courageous and determined man both on and off the ice. He was a man of many firsts. We are comforted in knowing that the Ted Lindsay legacy will forever be a part of history and are so proud of the many lives he helped change for the better through his tireless humanitarian work. Arrangements will be announced when they are finalized,” read a statement from his family.