Ted Lindsay, the Hockey Hall of Famer who provided muscle and meanness on the Detroit Red Wings’ mighty “Production Line” of the 1950s and helped pioneer the first NHL players union, died March 4 at his home in Oakland Township, Mich. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by his son-in-law Lew LaPaugh, president of the Ted Lindsay Foundation, which raises money for autism research. He did not give a cause.
Known as “Terrible Ted,” Mr. Lindsay was one of the game’s best left wings, an 11-time all-star who played on four Stanley Cup winners. Mr. Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe formed an offensive juggernaut of a line that helped make Detroit one of the first of the National Hockey League’s great post-World War II dynasties.
In a statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called Mr. Lindsay “one of the game’s fiercest competitors” and “among its most beloved ambassadors throughout the more than five decades of service to hockey that followed his retirement.”
The Hockey Hall of Fame waived its three-year waiting period when it inducted Mr. Lindsay in 1966. Nine years earlier, he had been elected president of the players union he helped organize — and was subsequently traded to Chicago.
“It didn’t matter that they traded me,” he said in 1995. “I have a Red Wing on my forehead and on my behind and on my heart. That will never change.”
Mr. Lindsay finished his NHL career with 379 goals and 472 assists in 1,068 games, spending 14 of his 17 seasons with Detroit. With Howe and Mr. Lindsay centered first by Abel and then by Alex Delvecchio, the Red Wings won Stanley Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955. The Red Wings retired his number, 7, in 1991.
Mr. Lindsay is credited with originating the ritual in which the championship team skates around the rink with the Stanley Cup, which he did for the first time in 1950. He downplayed his role, saying he simply wanted to bring the Cup closer to the fans.
“I saw it sitting there, and I thought, ‘I’ll just pick it up and I’ll take it over.’ . . . I just moved along the boards. I didn’t have it over my head. I had it so they could read it,” he said in 2013. “I wasn’t starting a tradition, I was just taking care of my fans that paid our salary.”
In 2010, the NHL Players’ Association renamed its version of the Most Outstanding Player award after Mr. Lindsay. The honor, which is chosen by an NHLPA vote, was previously called the Lester B. Pearson Award after the former Canadian prime minister.
“Ted Lindsay was one of the best players to ever to put on a pair of skates,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement. “But his greatest legacy was off the ice. A true trailblazer in seeking to improve conditions for all players, Ted was instrumental in organizing the original players’ association in 1957. All players, past, current and future, are in his debt. All those who have, and will follow him into the NHL, enjoy improved rights and benefits in large part due to the efforts he made.”
Robert Blake Theodore Lindsay was born in Renfrew, Ontario, on July 29, 1925. His father, Bert Lindsay, was a goaltender in the NHL and its precursor, the National Hockey Association; during the Depression, he moved the family to Kirkland Lake so he could work as a gold miner.
Mr. Lindsay played junior hockey in the town and eventually joined the Oshawa Generals, with whom he won the Memorial Cup, Canada’s junior hockey championship, in 1944. He became a Red Wing later that year.
Mr. Lindsay led the NHL with 33 goals in 1947-1948 and won the Art Ross Trophy (most points) in 1949-1950, when he had 23 goals and a league-best 55 assists. In 1955, he scored four goals in a 7-1 victory over Montreal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals.
During his 14 seasons in Detroit, he led the team in goals only once. But he led or tied for the team lead in penalty minutes 10 times, including his final season of 1964-1965, when he was approaching 40 years old.
Mr. Lindsay took his toughness off the ice to organize the players association despite opposition from team owners. “I was led by a feeling of fairness,” he once said. “All of us who were involved in trying to establish the players association weren’t the ones who needed it. It was for the fringe players that were the worst off.
“When I got caught up in this, I was so grateful to the game for all it had done for me,” he added. “But it was a dictatorship on the part of the owners, who didn’t realize any of us had a brain. There we were, sitting there in 1956, these dumb hockey players, and we were going to ruin their game.”
Mr. Lindsay retired following the 1959-1960 season and focused on his automotive business. He came back for one more season with the Red Wings in 1964-1965 and returned to Detroit as general manager in 1977, remaining in that role until 1980. During the 1980-1981 season, he coached the team for 20 games.
Mr. Lindsay’s wife, Joanne, died in 2017. Survivors include three children; a stepdaughter; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mr. Lindsay declined to attend the banquet because it was an all-male event. The following year, the banquet was open to men and women.