"How old are you now?"
"I'll be 39 next week."
"That's not too old," Abel said. "You never abused your body. Your weight is still the same. I really think you could do it. We could use another left winger. You could try it in training camp and see how it goes. Think about it." That evening Lindsay discussed it with his wife, Pat. Her reaction: "You're not serious?"
Her fear, she admits now, was injury—"something I never worried about when he was a player before."
Ted himself feared he would not make it. In August he made reservations for a March ski vacation in Aspen, Colo. In September he reported to the Red Wing training camp at the Detroit Olympia. Had the Red Wings trained in Canada, as most teams do, Lindsay could not have left his business. As it was, his work schedule complicated the situation. He was up at 6 a.m. to drive 40 miles from his sprawling suburban ranch home in Birmingham to be on the ice at 8. He had requested the early shift in order to have time to do a full day's work. "Those first few days I was beat," he says. "I was in bed by 9 every night. My legs held up. But my upper body was like spaghetti." Lindsay knew he could not expect any favors. In his first game Tim Horton, one of the big defensemen on the Toronto Maple Leafs, slammed him into the white wooden boards surrounding the rink. Lindsay instinctively retaliated with an elbow.
"There wasn't much power behind it," he says. "When I got hit I could feel the strength ooze out of me. But I still had all my arms and legs, and that was a victory right there."
Other victories followed. Gradually he regained much of his old timing and by midseason he had scored eight goals, only one less than his famous teammate, Gordie Howe. Perhaps more significant, he again was thriving on turmoil. His 97 penalty minutes put him among the league leaders, and he had been involved in several brawls. In one bare-knuckle battle he gave away 35 pounds, six inches and 11 years to Montreal rookie Ted Harris. That night Ted Lindsay showed his age. After the game he plopped into the whirlpool bath. "I was so tired," he explained, "that I could hardly lift my arms."
But on other nights he has successfully defied the years. "He's had some big games for us," says Abel. In one, he scored twice to win 3-1. Those were his sixth and seventh goals, and later a newsman asked if he were hoping to score 20, a status symbol in hockey similar to a .300 batting average. "Not 20 yet," said Lindsay with a wink. "I'll take eight first." Whatever Lindsay scores, it will be a lesson in the value of maintaining some semblance of physical condition. During his four-year layoff Ted faithfully did calisthenics each day. Golf and skiing provided more exercise. Cigarettes were no problem; he does not smoke and he drinks only beer. And he has never forgotten the importance of mental preparation. "In business," he says, "you get so you love everybody. But in this game you have to be mean or you're going to get pushed around. I keep telling myself," says Terrible Ted Lindsay, "Be mean! Be mean!"