By David Fleet
Bill Haney met Ted Lindsay for the first time in July 1953.
“I was behind the counter in the pro shop at Sylvan Glen Golf Course, in Troy,” recalls Haney, a Brandon Township resident and long time author. “Three pro athletes I recognized right away came in. They were three of the most famous players in the history of not only the Detroit Red Wings, but also in the world of pro hockey. All were to become Hall of Fame players and all had their numbers retired and their banners raised in the Wings’ arenas. Terry Sawchuk, perhaps the greatest goalie ever; Gordie Howe, considered the greatest all-around player of all time; and Ted Lindsay, not only a member of the Wings’ famed Production Line, but known as “Terrible Ted,” the toughest player in the National Hockey League.”
On Monday Lindsay died at this Oakland Township home.
He was 93.
Haney recalls his interaction with Lindsay over the years that included 17 seasons in the NHL including 14 with the Red Wings.
“Over the years I came to know Gordie well, but talked with Ted only a few times, mostly at fundraisers for autism research, Ted’s favored charity,” said Haney. “We talked a couple times at Wings’ games and at the services for Charlie Gehringer, a dear friend of mine, another Hall of Famer, and baseball’s greatest second baseman.”
“Terry Sawchuk (Red Wing goaltender) was the son-in-law of the owner of Morey’s Golf Course, in Commerce and, like most hockey players, was a golfer,” he said.
“So was Ted and they figured it was time for big Gordie to take up the game on a full-sized course like Sylvan Glen. They already knew that Gordie was such a natural athlete he would excel at golf if he got serious about it.”
As they went down to the first tee and took a few practice swings, Ted had to correct Gordie’s grip and adjust his stance, added Haney.
“Then he stepped back as Gordie laced a 250-yard drive down the center of the fairway,” he said. “Lindsay came into the pro shop after the round and said, ‘As good an athlete as Howe is, I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself. The big lug shot 78.’”
Years later, Haney spent an evening with Gordie Howe at a New York club where he was presenting the Emery Edge NHL trophy to Wayne Gretzky. The weather was terrible and not many people showed up, so Haney had Gordie pretty much to himself.
“I told him I knew what he shot in his first round of golf,” he said. “He smiled when I told him it was a 78 at Sylvan Glen with Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuk”
Howe smiled and said, ‘That’s right and I played quite a bit of golf over the next ten years before I ever broke 80 again.’
“Lindsay kept telling me that 78 was just beginner’s luck,” said Haney.
Haney told that story to Lindsay the last time he saw him.
“Sounds like Gordie, all right,” said Lindsay.