It was nice to see the NHL borrow an idea from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science people – among other organizations – in coming up with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gordie Howe being named the first winner of it Thursday couldn’t be any more natural. Howe is Mr. Hockey and has been a tremendous symbol of skill, strength and poise in the NHL family for more than 60 years.
In a season when his Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, it was touching to see Howe up on stage harkening back to his winning years as a player and telling the audience today’s game is in good hands with such a skilled group of players.
Going forward, there are many worthy candidates for this award as the NHL closes in on its 100th year. Selecting anyone other than Mr. Hockey in Year 1 would have been a mistake. But in future seasons, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Scotty Bowman and Jean Beliveau are just a few names we’ll be seeing win this award.
It’ll be interesting to see how the NHL handles the legacy of Ted Lindsay. Not only was ‘Terrible Ted’ one of the best players of all-time – he ranked No. 21 on The Hockey News’ 1997 list of the top 100 players – he was also the instigator of the grossly underpaid players’ attempt to form an association/union back in 1957.
Lindsay’s efforts more than 50 years ago almost came to fruition. If not for a well-timed trade from Detroit to Chicago, followed by carefully planned sabotage efforts by the Red Wings to sway an important vote among Detroit players, the NHLPA would have been formed in 1958.
Instead, the union’s formation was delayed until 1967 under the guidance of Alan Eagleson. And with the disgraced Eagleson at the helm, it took another 25 years for the association to gain any real traction and equitable treatment.
The NHL may quietly hope the 1957 censuring of Lindsay and the eventual clumsy formation of the union and its corrupt founding executive director stay part of the league’s past and not get moved into the spotlight like Mr. Hockey did at the NHL awards.
But the NHL and NHLPA are partners now. And it should be incumbent upon the NHLPA to make a concerted push for the recognition of Terrible Ted, once a terrific hockey player who 50 years ago had the will, foresight and gumption to look out for the best interests of all hockey players.
Ted Lindsay should be the next winner of the NHL’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.
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