Tag Archives: Ted Lindsay

Ralph Backstrom Was The Guy

He was all the things I knew were good in life – he skated like the wind, had a great brush cut and a pretty wife, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens.

What’s better than that?

This was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, but I thought maybe I could be like Backstrom. And I wasn’t even on drugs when I thought this.

It meant getting a brush cut and trying to look like him when I watched him on TV taking faceoffs and darting up the ice with the puck. I could do that and I did. I got the brush cut.

Ralph came out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that churned out NHL players in abnormal fashion, having produced him and Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Mickey and Dick Redmond, Wayne and Larry Hillman, the Plagers, and many others.

About 30 in all. That’s a lot of players.

Ralph was a phenom in Kirkland Lake minor hockey, and became captain and the best of the powerhouse Hull-Ottawa Canadiens juniors before he joined the big club. He had it all, I thought. I gotta practice more, I thought.

I admired the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated and was so solid both as a playmaker and a checker. And I loved the way he and rival Dave Keon of the enemy Leafs went head to head on glorious nights when the Habs and Leafs were what life was all about for Canadian kids from coast to coast.

This guy isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and when he played he sometimes got into coach Toe Blake’s bad books. But he was a great hockey player. Underrated maybe, but absolutely great.

And I wanted to be just like him and I was. I had the brush cut.




What’s Wrong With This Picture?


What’s wrong with it? The great Doug Harvey is wearing a Rangers uniform, that’s what’s wrong with it.

Doug Harvey was a Canadiens from 1947 to 1961, winning six Norris Trophies in the process. He was the best of the best, but because he and Detroit’s Ted Lindsay started wondering out loud if  the owners were above board with players’ pension money, Doug was traded to the New York Rangers for Lou Fontinato at the end of the 1961 campaign. (Lindsay was banished to Chicago).

Doug’s first year as a Ranger was as player-coach, and he captured yet another Norris, his seventh. P.K. Subban has a ways to go.

What’s wrong with this picture. He should’ve retired as a Hab, because he was the Canadiens greatest defenceman. Usually it’s only Boston’s Bobby Orr that folks agree was as good or possibly better, and Orr in a Hawks uniform, a team he joined in 1976, didn’t seem right either.

Harvey’s sweater was retired by the Habs in 1985, which was about twenty years too late, but at least it got done. Although how could it not?

In a 1985 Tim Burke Montreal Gazette column, he writes that when Harvey was informed that his sweater would go up to the rafters, he was asked how he rated himself as a player. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I never saw myself play.”

Burke’s complete and interesting story about Harvey and the news of his sweater retirement can be seen here – Doug Harvey’s number 2 To Be Retired

I don’t like change. That’s why I’ve decided to stop aging. And I miss the young Sophia Loren, when she was only 65 or 70.

Here’s Orr, gone from the Bruins to Chicago, when his knees were shot. Like Harvey, a different uniform just wasn’t right. And below that, a fellow who never looked right in a Leafs uniform.

And then there’s the guy below him. I could on and on.







All-Star Game Baby Naming

In just nine months from now, the NHL all-star game, which normally would be held at this time, won’t be because if all goes well, players will be suiting up as Olympians in Sochi instead.

So women everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they can get pregnant and not miss any all-star action because they’ll be in the delivery room.

You can, however, name the new baby Bettman or Sochi if you want.

Last year’s all-star game was supposed to take place in Columbus, but didn’t because of that little hiccup called the lockout. So now it’ll be two full years without titillating drama, like the classic of two years ago when Team Lidstrom edged Team Staal 11-10.

I was on the edge of my seat. The edge of the porta potty I always bring into the living room so I don’t miss anything.

Have you ever considered the name Porta Potty for your baby?

When the games are played, it’s heart-stopping drama, as we saw in 2009 when the Eastern Conference team beat the Western Conference 12-11, or 1993, when the Wales Conference clobbered the Campbell Conference 16-6.

Unfortunately, very few parents wanted to name their babies Wales, although I think there’s quite a few Campbells. But no Drama. Maybe there’s the odd kid in Hollywood called Drama. There’s Moroccan and Exton, so why not Drama?

It wasn’t always football scores in all-star games. When the format meant the Stanley Cup champs against the best of the rest, both sides wanted bragging rights, so the games were serious and hard-hitting. In fact, the record for lowest amount of goals scored occurred in 1956, when the Cup champion Habs and the NHL elite tied 1-1.

The Rocket scored for Montreal, while Terrible Ted Lindsay did the same for the NHL.

Surprisingly, I’ve yet to run into anyone born in 1956 named Rocket or Terrible. But there are a ton of people named Richard and Lindsay out there.

Things were also deadly serious in 1979 when NHL players played a three-game series against the Soviet squad called the Challenge Cup, which saw the foreigners take two of three games, including a 6-0 whitewashing in the deciding game..

If you were born in 1979, is your name Challenge? Or Foreigner? Or Helmut Balderis?

And for the record, my daughter was born just after this series. We named her Shannon. My wife wasn’t much of a hockey fan.



Smythe And Kid

When you see a building being built that takes maybe a year to finish, think about this; Maple Leaf Gardens was built during the depression in just five months.

It takes me that long to build a fence gate.

Conn Smythe recruited several rich buddies to invest in the Gardens, and when the money fell short by several hundred thousand dollars, he convinced the workers to trade twenty percent of their wages for shares in the building. The thing got built and the workers’ shares, that were bought for a dollar apiece, quickly increased by a hundred-fold.

Smythe was one powerful hockey man. After building Maple Leaf Gardens and a successful Leafs franchise, he was offered the presidency of the entire league, basically so the other owners would finally have this loud and forceful bully out of the way. But Smythe said no way was he becoming a yes-man to the owners. So they hired Clarence Campbell, who was the definitive yes-man and a guy the owners, especially Smythe, could manipulate like a puppet.

Think about the St. Patrick’s Day riot in 1955 in Montreal, when Campbell suspended Rocket Richard for the remainder of the season, plus all of the playoffs. Owners, especially Smythe, had been fed up with the Rocket causing havoc with officials throughout the league and wanted him reined in. Happily for them, they had Campbell to do their dirty work for them, who turned around and handed Richard that gigantic suspension that we still talk about every St. Patrick’s Day.

Years later, someone asked Stafford Smythe, Conn’s son who succeeded dad as Maple Leaf president, why they didn’t get rid of Campbell, who would, from time to time, piss the owners off. Stafford replied, “Where would we find another Rhodes scholar, graduate lawyer, decorated war hero, and former prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, who will do what he’s told?”

Stafford seemed to be a man disliked by almost everyone who knew him. Howie Meeker punched him in the face during a disagreement about certain players when Howie was coaching the Leafs, and it seems whenever there’s mention of Stafford in various books, it involves bullying and manipulating, and it’s obvious the man had issues. Just not a nice person. Rude to the players’ wives. A tax evader, a fraudster, and a stealer of company funds.

Dad had more class than son.

Conn had a beautiful apartment built in the innards of the Gardens where he lived much of the time and where he called in many Gardens employees to yell at and often fire. How cool would that be? You don’t have to go out in the cold when you go to the games.

He also owned a thriving gravel pit where some of the Leafs worked, and a ranch where he raised prize racing horses.

Smythe held firm when it came to the players’ idea about forming a players association, and managed to prolong it for ten years, mostly by convincing all the teams to trade the main instigators, like Ted Lindsay and Doug Harvey, to other teams. He was very proud of this accomplishment. A union of course wouldn’t jive with Conn. He needed full control. He needed to be able to treat his players and coaches as he saw fit, and pocket much of the profits while being cheap about giving small raises to deserving players.

I wonder if Gary Bettman has a picture of him taped to the ceiling above his bed.

The old bastard also lobbied for years to stop Harvey Busher Jackson, one of his star players throughout the 1940’s in Toronto, from being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame because he disapproved of Jackson’s drinking and womanizing. Smythe would quit hockey completely when Jackson was finally inducted in 1971.

He also didn’t like Roman Catholics and was mortified when son Stafford fell in love with and married one.

Conn Smythe was a piece of work, but raised countless dollars for crippled children. So he had a good side of him, I suppose. Although it doesn’t excuse him for all the other stuff. And that includes fathering Stafford.

What Players Had To Do

I pulled cards from my 1954-55 set to show you examples of what players back then did for summer jobs, which you can see on the last line of each player description. This was long before a players association, when the game was much different, and there was no such thing as a wealthy player. The owners made millions, the players worked summer jobs, and if these stars-on-ice somehow incurred the wrath of Conn Smythe and other owners or general managers, they could be buried in the minors or cast adrift, rarely or never to be heard from again.




Max And Chara Talk, And PK Annoys

I see that Zdeno Chara has had a chat with Max Pacioretty sometime recently and that’s good. If Chara spoke from his heart, saying he worried for Max and never wanted to hurt but simply erase him from the play, then that’s excellent.

Of course, it isn’t good if Chara warned Max to never, ever push him again after scoring an overtime goal.

Maybe now Mark Recchi will step forward and say he was out of line for saying Max embellished his injury. Or is the former Hab still having trouble removing his foot from his mouth?

Elliotte Friedman on rookie of the year –  He chooses Jeff Skinner, but also had this to say –

“You know who is not getting enough respect? John Carlson.
He led all rookies in ice time, both for the season and per game. He was six points behind Kevin Shattenkirk, who led diaper-dandy defencemen in scoring. Carlson and Karl Alzner became the shutdown pair on a team that changed its system at Christmas and charged at the end to win the East. That’s pretty good.

P.K. Subban’s chances are hurt because he annoys people. That’s unfortunate, because he had a major impact on a decimated blue-line. But Carlson had a better year.”

Carlson had a better year? He had 7 goals and 30 assists for 37 points, plus 44 PIM’s. PK notched 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points and 124 PIM’s. The Canadiens relied heavily on PK after losing Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges for the season and Jaroslav Spacek for 23 games. PK is such an impact player that the Bruins will be concentrating hard on him as he can be a game-breaker.

And he annoys people? What does that have to do with anything? If Bobby Orr had annoyed some, does that mean he wouldn’t have won all those Norris’? It’s about skill, impact, importance to team, points and other intangibles. It shouldn’t be about whether PK annoys some players or not.

Am I wrong or was Friedman’s statement one of the sillier things you’ve seen lately? Hall of Famers and others throughout the decades annoyed other players too.

Wayne Gretzky used to tell Gary Lupul he was useless and didn’t belong in the league. Gretzky was a known trash-talker and that annoyed others I’m sure. Alexander Mogilny, after being asked by his Vancouver Canucks’ coach (who I won’t name) to do more backchecking, replied, “And how much money do YOU make?’ To me, that’s also pretty annoying.

Ted Lindsay would call Rocket Richard every hateful and racist name he could think of. That must have been tremendously annoying.

But PK’s a rookie and is supposed to behave. The unwritten rule is that you can’t be annoying until you’ve been around a few years. Too bad.


Roger Leger Was All Choked Up

Another little ditty from my Bee Hive collection as we wait for the Habs to destroy Chicago on Tuesday.

Roger Leger was not only in the running to replace Dick Irvin as coach of the Canadiens, a job Toe Blake was eventually given, but also managed to get his bridgework stuck in his throat one night against Detroit in 1948 which caused the team to lose the game.

The Canadiens were winning by one goal late in the game and as the puck came back to Leger on the blueline from a faceoff, Ted Lindsay rammed his elbow into Leger’s mouth, forcing the guy’s bridgework down his throat. Leger left the puck sitting there as he choked and panicked and skated for the bench and a Detroit player grabbed the puck and tied the score. Soon after, the Wings popped the winner.

However, in Leger’s defence, I would’ve done the same thing. The hell with the puck.

It Was Good To Have Murph Chamberlain On Your Side

Erwin “Murph” Chamberlain showed up at my door the other day.

No, not the real Murph Chamberlain, he’s been dead since 1986, but the Bee Hive, from those lovely 5×8 photos of years gone by, and one of the few I needed to complete a 70-odd set from the 1944-64 Group 2 series.

This was a guy, like Sprague Cleghorn a couple of decades before him, who would have straightened out the Sean Avery’s of the league in one or two quick and easy lessons.

Chamberlain was one of hockey’s larger-than-life characters – a tough as nails, hard-drinking, hard-partying, loud fellow who led teammates astray on a regular basis but was a leader in many ways, on and off the ice. We hear the stories, like the time a rookie at training camp was poised to make the club and shove a veteran aside until “Hardrock”, as they called Chamberlain, took the bull by the horns and beat the daylights out of the poor guy, thus ending the newcomer’s chances of taking one of Murph’s buddies’ jobs. Or in New York where Chuck Raynor once said with great fondness how Chamberlain babysat him in the big city.

He wasn’t a giant of a man at 5’11, 165lbs, but was as rugged as they came, much like Ted Lindsay was in Detroit and Chicago. But then again, 5’11 was quite a serious height in those days. Regardless, it’s common knowledge that this was one tough mother, or as I like to call him – “The Sprague Cleghorn of the 1940’s.”

Here’s some Murph Chamberlain stats: Murph stats. And I might need to remortgage my house for those last few Bee Hives I need.

Jim Thomson Was Another Rebel With A Cause


Previously I wrote about Ted Lindsay and how the Detroit Red Wings traded him to the lowly Chicago Black Hawks because he was of the movers and shakers involved in creating the first players’ association.

Here’s another of the ringleaders, Jim Thomson, who absolutely infuriated Toronto Maple Leafs’ owner Conn Smythe by his union actions and therefore, Thomson, who had played 12 seasons in Toronto, was also banished to the basement dwelling Chicago Black Hawks.

This photo is another I had clipped from the Toronto Star’s “Star Weekly” from back then, and it’s obvious that although Smythe said and did what he wanted in the NHL, he had no control over what the Toronto papers printed. Because if he did, I’m sure there’d be no way he’d allow such a traitor to have his coloured photo printed for all to see.

Or, could it be possible Smythe was happy that people saw Thomson in a Hawks uniform? That way, he could get his message across more firmly that if you messed with league management, this is what happens to you.

Terrible Ted Was Banished To Chicago

With the Chicago Blackhawks on the big stage now, I thought it was appropriate to post this picture I have of Ted Lindsay that I had clipped, along with many others, from Star Weekly’s in the late 1950’s.

This is the guy every NHL player should thank, because he was one of the ones who organized the first player’s association and who faced the wrath of team tyrants like Conn Smythe and Jack Adams for doing so.

Lindsay was a star with the Detroit Red Wings, and for all his trouble of trying to make life better for the players, he and Jim Thomson in Toronto were banished to the lowly Chicago Black Hawks, who were perennial basement-dwellars back then. Lindsay and the others, including the great Doug Harvey in Montreal, had absolutely enraged most of the owners and general managers and these select few risked everything for every other player then and every player to come in the future.

Lindsay and these other guys are true hockey heroes, and he was one tough son of a bitch who caused Maurice Richard more grief than probably any other opponent. They hated each other, but in later years Lindsay admitted that he’d gotten to know the Rocket a little, really liked him, and wished they could have become better friends before Rocket passed away. (Howie Meeker told me just recently that he too hated the Rocket but came to like him after he got to know him.)

Only just recently the Lester B. Pearson Award, given to the league’s best player as voted on by other players, was changed to the Ted Lindsay Award. A fitting tribute to a man who has put a lot of dollars in every player’s pocket.