- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Jimmy Skinner, the cherubic coach who has piloted Detroit for the past three years, self-effacingly sums up the advantages of having two such players in his lineup by saying, "I can look like the greatest coach in hockey just by opening the gate and sending Gordie and Ted on the ice."
The quiet and the sassy
The phrase " Howe and Lindsay" has given them a sort of twin identification which they have even carried over into their lives, yet these two linemates and roommates are a rink-length apart in appearance and disposition. Howe is a slope-shouldered 204-pounder with tremendous power, amazing agility and lightning reflexes. An easygoing natural in any sport, Howe thinks of hockey—even the rough, tough professional version—as strictly a game. The day he landed on the club he hooked up with the sassy little (5 foot 8, 168 pounds) Lindsay, already a recognized star, and they've been buddies ever since. For several years the retiring Howe was comfortable only when a joint interview was arranged. "I'll let Ted do the talking," he would remark and then sit back as an onlooker while Lindsay answered questions for both. Lindsay also did the selecting, everything from Gordie's first automobile to the size of the pregame steaks. Their association will continue after hockey, too, for they are partners along with Pavelich in a thriving young Detroit industrial concern supplying engineering services to auto manufacturers.
Early in their careers they were united with Sid Abel, then a veteran center, on a line which became one of the best-known and highest scoring units in hockey history. It was called, with good reason, the production line. This threesome was such a smashing success that Abel's career was prolonged considerably and he reaped a flock of honors long after he expected to retire. Now a radio-TV commentator for Detroit's home games, Abel has said, "And I still could center them today, even if I had to play in a rocking chair."
Since Abel's retirement in 1952, Howe and Lindsay have continued to click with nine different centers running from Abel to the latest choice, Norm Ullman, a chunky youngster who was just starting grammar school when Lindsay first joined the Wings. Significantly, Alex Delvecchio and Dutch Reibel, Detroit's two other regular centers this season, were both groomed at the coveted spot ahead of Ullman. They learned their lessons so well that they were then handed lines of their own to develop, but they are always ready in case a trained replacement is required in an emergency.
"Actually, it is tough for a new center to play between them," Abel points out. "They are both unorthodox, crisscrossing on the ice so that no one really is a right wing, a center or a left wing. The man centering for them has to learn quickly to forget all the regular rules about playing center and just let them freewheel and adapt himself to it." Yet the statistics show that there is not an ice chip's difference in the Howe-Lindsay results, no matter who their center happens to be.
"Look at the luck we had in landing a player like Lindsay, another like Howe and another like Kelly," he said recently. " Howe was invited to a Ranger tryout camp one year but became discouraged when told that he might as well go home because he'd never be a hockey player. A year later he had developed so much that no scout possibly could have overlooked him, but we had him sewed up by then. Then there were Lindsay and Kelly playing on Toronto kid teams in the Maple Leafs' backyard. The Leafs' scout missed them, but ours didn't. Then there was more luck in getting all three at the same time when they were young enough to build a team around. You bet I'm proud of this team and my part in it, but I have to be honest with you and say I'm mighty thankful that I've been able to make a success of what luck provided."
The quick jump
Howe is middle-aged as hockey players go. At 28 (he'll be 29 on March 31) he is in his 11th season and defers to only four players in the league in seniority. The heavily muscled Westerner from Saskatchewan hit the NHL with a minimum of preliminaries after his turndown by the Rangers, and Adams will never forget his first look at the raw product. "We had a flock of young kids in at training camp and I couldn't take my eyes off a big rangy one," he recalls. "I called him over and asked his name. ' Gordon Howe,' he drawled back and added, 'But I'm no relation to that other Howe over there.' I told the kid that if he worked hard, some day he might be as good as Syd Howe, one of our best forwards at the time. But honestly I never dreamed that he'd do it."