Theodore Samuel "Teeder" Kennedy (December 12, 1925 – August 14, 2009) was a professional ice hockey centre who played his entire career with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1942 to 1957 and was captain of the team for eight seasons. He was one of the major stars of the NHL's first dynasty as the Leafs won the Stanley Cup five times within a seven year period. He was known for his work ethic, leadership, playmaking, forechecking and faceoff skills and for scoring important goals. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
Kennedy brought to the Leafs leadership, determination and the knack for scoring goals when they were most needed. He played a scrambling style of hockey, was difficult to separate from the puck, was known for his agility, playmaking and considered the best faceoff man in hockey. In 1990 Sport Illustrated published a poll of NHL experts on "The Best Ever on the Draw" and ranked Ted Kennedy as #1 on a list of the top 10 of All-Time on faceoff skills. Kennedy played two NHL games with the Leafs late in the 1942-43 season.
He played full-time with the Leafs for the first time with the 1943–44 season. Kennedy was to make an impact almost immediately upon joining the team. Debuting against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Gardens, he was put on the Leafs' third line on rightwing, instead of his customary centre position, and told by coach Hap Day to only "stay with your check and keep him from scoring." Kennedy scored three goals himself that game in a 5–5 tie. He finished the regular season as the team's second best goal-scorer with 26 and was fourth in points. In the playoffs, although winning the first game 3–1 in Montreal, the Leafs were then swept by the Canadiens in the next four. The Toronto Daily Star said of Kennedy's rookie season, "For our money the best rookie of the year though playing with one of the weakest lines in N.H.L. history." Kennedy was ineligible for the rookie-of-the-year award because of the two games he played with the Leafs at the end of the 1942-43 season. The first Stanley Cup and the great upset
In only his second NHL season, Kennedy finished 1944–45 leading the team in goals and points. The Maple Leafs finished in third and would face the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round. The Montreal Canadiens of 1944–45 had achieved a record-breaking season. Dick Irvin, coach of Monteal, declared them as the greatest team to have ever played in the NHL. The Montreal club had the top three point leaders in the league, placed 5 of the 6 positions on the All-Star team, Maurice Richard had scored his famous 50 goals in 50 games and Montreal had finished 28 points ahead of the Toronto. As of 2009, the Canadien's winning percentage of 1944–45 is the 5th highest in NHL history.
The series would be the first team to win four games of a best-of-seven. The first game was in Montreal and no goals had been scored for the first two periods. In the third period, with just twenty-two seconds remaining, Ted Kennedy banked a backhand shot off the goalpost which then rebounded off goaltender Bill Durnan's pads and into the net to win the game 1–0. In the second game, also in Montreal, Kennedy struck again only four minutes into the first period to put the Toronto team ahead by 1–0. Toronto went on to win the game 3–2 and were able to leave Montreal with a 2–0 series lead. Montreal won the next game in Toronto 4–1. However, despite the victory, Canadiens' Maurice Richard had yet to score a goal so far in the series. Montreal got off to a quick start in the fourth game in Toronto and led 2–0 on goals by Elmer Lach and Richard before the game was three minutes old. In the second period Toronto came out battling and Mel Hill on a pass from Kennedy closed the gap to 2–1. The Leafs went on to win the game in overtime.As Toronto needed only one more victory to win the series, Montreal was facing elimination in game five in Montreal. Maurice Richard finally overcame Leaf checking and scored four goals in an 11–3 victory. In the game, Montreal had gone up 3–0 early, but goals by Lorne Carr and Kennedy closed the gap to 3–2, before Richard and his line-mates, the "Punch" line, put it out of reach. Toronto won the sixth game in Maple Leaf Gardens 3–2 to win the series. Toronto's Elwyn Morris, having scored only one goal all season, had dramatically openned the scoring by stealing the puck from defenseman Frank Eddolls. Eddolls was the player traded to Montreal to bring Kennedy to Toronto.
On completion of the Montreal series, the Globe and Mail said of the 19-year-old Kennedy, "Ted Kennedy's all-round display was the best individual performance of the six-game set." The Toronto Star was even more laudatory "There are a few great hockey players in the N.H.L. today. Kennedy is assuredly and emphatically one." Kennedy said that the 1945 upset of the Canadiens was the peak event of his career.
Toronto met Detroit in the Stanley Cup final. Toronto won the first three games of the series without giving up a goal, as rookie goaltender Frank McCool recorded consecutive shutouts. Toronto then had to ward off a Detroit comeback before winning the Stanley Cup in the seventh game. Fame comes to Teeder
In the 1940s the Leafs were a team depleted by their best players participating in the war effort. Many of the players on the Leafs during this period failed to stick with the team once the war ended and the stars returned. However, Kennedy was the exception and he would quickly become on the team's greatest stars and a favorite of the fans. "Come on, Teeder!" was to become a familiar rallying cry in Maple Leaf Gardens when it was yelled by the otherwise quiet fan, season ticket-holder John Arnott.As it would not be until the 1952–53 season that Saturday night hockey games would come to television in Canada, radio was the major form of entertainment in Canadian households and the broadcasts of Foster Hewitt made Kennedy famous.
Conn Smythe recognized the importance of finding the right line-mate for Kennedy, telling coach Hap Day in September of 1945, "we must get something really rapid to team up with this guy and we'll be set for a decade with a first rate front line." Consequently, Smythe attempted to acquire senior hockey's star player and future Hall of Famer Edgar Laprade, whose rights were owned by the New York Rangers. Lester Patrick was asking for several players in return so a deal wasn't made and Laprade made his NHL debut with New York in the 1945–46 season. In January 1946, Kennedy was lost for the season due to a bone injury in his foot. With the Leafs also losing Syl Apps to injury the Leafs missed the playoffs of the 1945–46 season. The NHL's first dynasty
On September 19, 1946, an informal ceremony was held in the Leaf dressing room in which former Leaf great Charlie Conacher presented Ted Kennedy with his No. 9 sweater he had worn during his career. Conacher had been Kennedy's hero when he was a youngster and had always wanted to wear number 9, but when Kennedy arrived Lorne Carr already had the number. He initially wore No.12 then was given No. 10. His Leaf team-mates had always teased Kennedy about his compulsion to have Conacher's number, so when Carr retired the previous season, they contacted Conacher and arranged for the ceremony. Conacher, now working as a broker, explaining why he was willing to take time off work said "He's a good kid and a great player. You just can't disappoint a guy like that."
Conn Smythe instituted a major rebuilding campaign for the 1946–47. Gone from the team was Sweeney Schriner, Lorne Carr, Bob Davidson, Mel Hill, Elwin Morris, Babe Pratt, Billy Taylor and new additions were Harry Watson, Jimmy Thomson, Gus Mortson, Garth Boesch, Joe Klukay, Don Metz, Vic Lynn and Howie Meeker. The team was very young and was felt to be two years away from challenging for the championship.
Kennedy now centered a line between rookie Howie Meeker and Vic Lynn which clicked immediately. Kennedy was the playmaker between the fast skating and goal scoring of Meeker and Lynn. Kennedy led the Leafs in points and they finished in second place to Montreal. Toronto faced Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. Except for an embarrassing 9–1 loss in the second game in Detroit, Toronto dominated the series and won in five games. Toronto now faced Montreal for the Stanley Cup. The matchup was between the very young Maple Leafs and the veteran Montreal Canadiens who had dominated the NHL for the past four years. Prior to the series Canadien goaltender, Bill Durnan was quoted in a Montreal newspaper as saying, "How did the Maple Leafs manage to get into the playoffs?" The words would come back to haunt him. Kennedy was having an excellent playoffs and led the the Leafs in points in the series. However, Montreal's star player Maurice Richard, even though he would finish the playoffs leading all players in points, was not at the top of his form. He had even missed the third game, which Toronto won, due to a suspension. Toronto defeated Montreal in six games. Kennedy's line had their best game of the series in the final sixth game. Montreal had taken an early lead when Lynn tied the game with assists from Kennedy and Meeker. Then in the third with less than six minutes to go in the game Kennedy scored and Toronto won the Stanley Cup. In the final series against Montreal, Kennedy had scored the game-winning goal in three of the four games Toronto won. Despite winning the Stanley Cup the Toronto Maple Leafs did not place a single player on the first or second All-Star teams. The 1947–48 season brought Max Bentley to Toronto from Chicago in what has been called the biggest trade in NHL history as the Leafs gave up five players for the league's scoring leader.
Toronto now had three future Hall of Fame centres: Syl Apps, Max Bentley and Ted Kennedy. The Leafs finished in first place at the end of the regular season. Kennedy had finished the regular season third in points on the team behind Apps and Bently, but it was Kennedy who was to dominate the playoffs. In the first round Toronto played Boston. Toronto eliminated Boston in five games with Kennedy scoring four goals in the second game. Contributing to his reputation for clutch goals, he also scored the series winning goal. The fifth and deciding game was tied 2–2 in the third period when Kennedy was carrying the puck into the Boston end. He passed to Meeker, who returned the pass, faked once, moved in front of the net, waited until goaltender Brimseck went down, then lifted the puck over him. Toronto then swept Montreal in four straight games to win the Stanley Cup. Kennedy scored twice in the Cup-winning game and finished leading all players in the playoffs in points with eight goals and five assists.
After a practice in the fall of 1948, at age 23, Kennedy was elected captain of the Leafs in a dressing room vote among the players. Captain Syl Apps had retired the previous year. Without Apps and Nick Metz, who had also retired, the Leafs struggled throughout the 1948–49 season. They made the playoffs, finishing fourth and with a losing record of 23 wins 25 losses and 12 ties. However, they defeated Boston in five games in the first round and then swept first-place Detroit in four straight games to win their third consecutive Stanley Cup. Kennedy finished the playoffs with two goals and six assists to lead the Leafs in points and finished second to Detroit's Gordie Howe. He had also scored the game-winning goal against Boston which put Toronto up 3–0 in the series. This was the first time a National Hockey League team had won three Cups in a row. This Toronto Maple Leafs team is distinguished as the first dynasty in the history of the NHL.
The 1950-51 season would be Kennedy's last Stanley Cup. In the years following until Kennedy's retirement in 1957 the Leafs would either finish out of the playoffs or lose in the first round. However, Kennedy continued to play productive hockey.
On November 7, 1951 the Leafs and the Chicago Black Hawks played an afternoon exhibition of hockey, prior to their regularly scheduled evening game, for Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Canada. It was captain Teeder Kennedy, representing the players, who greeted the Princess at the game. Kennedy said it was a thrilling moment and recalled thinking at the time, "Here's a kid from the little village of Humberstone, Ontario being presented to the Queen."