Saturday, February 8, 2020

Terrible Ted

I went to Cranbrook School, a private boys school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, starting in 1958.

Cranbrook had an ice hockey team, but since I couldn't skate well, I never considered trying out for the team.  I didn't know much about the sport.

I had a good friend at the school who was on the team, though, and I used to go to the school's rink, which was outside, to watch him practice.  I would stand at one end and watch him sail around the rink on skates. He looked so graceful.  One time, I noticed a grown man skating with the players.  He wasn't the coach.  I asked my friend who he was.

"Ted Lindsay," he said.  "He helps out coaching from time to time."

Who was Ted Lindsay?

"He used to play for the Red Wings.  Want to meet him?"

He meant the Detroit Red Wings.  One of the sixat the timeNational Hockey League teams.  A little later my friend skated over with the man.  He introduced me to Ted Lindsay.  The man did not smile.  He didn't exactly have a scowl, but he looked deadly serious.  I learned later he had recently retired.

Then I noticed his face.  It was unlike any face I'd ever seen.  It was marked with countless jagged scars.  They covered the landscape of his face.  It was if his face were an abstract painting.  There didn't seem to be one portion of it that wasn't marked by scars moving in all directions.  I probably gasped.  He was fearsome-looking.  The fact that he didn't smile added to his fearsomeness. Later, I read that Lindsay had over 700 stitches on that face. 

Ted Lindsay had played left wing on a storied line that included the legendary Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretsky's idol.  He was called "Terrible Ted" by the press for his ferocity as a player.  "I had no friends on the ice," he once said.  He will be unknown to most Americans who do not know or love ice hockey.  But I'm sure most every Canadian knows who Ted Lindsay, a native son, was.

Ted Lindsay

I still remember that face.  The over-abundant scars, the result of run-ins with fists and hockey sticks and perhaps skate blades as well.  I'm sure Ted Lindsay had seen the astonished look I had on my face hundreds, maybe thousands of times. He probably counted on it as a player.

This was a face that a child might imagine the bogeyman having, who might spirit the child away from his home in the middle of the night.  Suddenly, "There's no such thing as the bogeyman" lost all its meaning.  There he was.