The old bromide that says a bad penny always returns has never had much application in sport—not, anyway, until Terrible Ted Lindsay returned to the Red Wings. Terrible Ted was a bad penny, all right, and one of the best left wingers in the whole history of the National Hockey League. When Ted quit in 1960 at the age of 34 after 16 NHL seasons, he took with him battle scars formed by 760 stitches, a left-wing record of 365 goals and an alltime record of 1,635 minutes in the penalty box. He left behind a hundred-odd bruised or scarred opponents who had got in his way and a handful of officials who were not in the least bit sorry to see him leave.
Now, after four years of eclipse as a respectable, golf-playing Detroit businessman, Bad-Penny Lindsay is back on the ice again as a fighting Red Wing. And—as ever—he is neck-deep in trouble with the league. "It's great," says Ted, "to be doing something you love. Especially when you never thought you'd be doing it again."
What Ted loves best became apparent two weeks ago when he challenged Umpire Vern Buffey during a game at Toronto. Ted's young teammate, Goalie Roger Crozier, had been cut on the face by a Toronto's player's stick, and Buffey did nothing about it. Lindsay decided to correct the oversight. "That's the third one you've missed," he growled at Buffey. "The Leafs should have had three five-minute penalties already for drawing blood, but you haven't given them a single one."
According to Lindsay, Buffey cursed him and shouted: "You shut up or I'll run you out of the league." "That's the first time that a referee ever swore at me," says Ted. "So I started to use some adjectives, too." Buffey retaliated with a misconduct penalty (automatic $25 fine) and a game-misconduct penalty (automatic $50 fine).
At first Lindsay refused to pay the fines and defied the authority of NHL President Clarence Campbell to make him do so. "I'm not going to hold still for Campbell's kangaroo court," he said, "and if he wants to take me to a real court, I'll have my own lawyer." Campbell responded by suspending Lindsay, pending payment of the fines. Two hours later Lindsay agreed to pay and signed a statement of apology. He was reinstated in time to play that evening in Montreal. But, he says, "I signed under protest." And, since then, he has seemed far from contrite.
"This is a dark day for hockey," Campbell told Detroit Manager Sid Abel when he heard that Lindsay was coming back, and Lindsay has given him no reason to change his mind. But why, more sympathetic fans might ask, did Lindsay bother to come back? A four-year layoff is a long time in any sport. In ice hockey it is an eternity. At 39, Canadian-born Robert Blake Theodore Lindsay, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is an eminently successful businessman who has no need of hockey's money and, indeed, has arranged to have his Red Wing salary stretched over some years to avoid income-tax imbalance. Why, then, did he want to return to the rough-and-tumble of hockey?
Ted Lindsay's answer is one of pure sentiment—an odd affliction for him. "I thought it would be nice," he says, "to finish my career as a Red Wing." Corny, perhaps, but understandable. After 13 spectacular seasons with the Red Wings, Lindsay was traded to Chicago in 1957 for feuding with the then Detroit manager Jack Adams. "The Black Hawks treated me fine," he says. "But it wasn't the same. The fire was out. I quit before I should have. I'm a Detroit guy. I played here a long time. I live here and I'll die here. I'm just finishing up something the right way, something that bothered me when I was traded."
About midway through last hockey season Ted asked his old friend Abel, who had succeeded Adams, if he could work out occasionally with the Wings. Lindsay said he wanted to be in decent form to play with the Red Wing Old-Timers in their annual game against the regulars. "Ted played so well," Abel says, "that it got me thinking." One day last July, Lindsay stopped by the Red Wing office. The club planned to televise its road games, and he wanted to apply for the job as a "color" commentator.
"Never mind the TV," Abel said to him. "Do you think that if you really got in shape you could play again?"
Lindsay laughed. "Thanks for thinking of me as a player," he said, "but I haven't played in four years."