Where today’s Maple Leafs dream of winning one Stanley Cup, Ted (Teeder) Kennedy was part of five championship teams in a golden era of Toronto hockey.
One of the classiest of Leafs, a valued captain, the most recent Leaf to win the Hart Trophy and a pretty fair horseman, too, Kennedy passed away yesterday at a nursing home in his native Port Colborne of congestive heart failure. He was 83.
“This is a sad day for the Leafs fans and the Leafs alumni,” former captain Darryl Sittler said. “I had the good fortune to meet Teeder a few times, including a couple of years ago when the nine living captains were together for a photo shoot.
“You would see him around the Gardens now and then with (ex-captains) Syl Apps and George Armstrong. We never talked much about the captaincy, but sometimes you don’t need to know the man to know he’s a quality person, like a Jean Beliveau.
“He was a great player, a humble guy and he will be missed.”
Originally on the negotiation list of the Canadiens, the teenaged centre was traded to a Leafs team left short-handed by World War II, for Frank Eddolls, in the 1942-43 season. Kennedy had an assist in his first game and though not blessed as a skater, his sharp mind eventually would place him in the top 10 in franchise scoring. He currently sits ninth with 560 points in 696 games.
Kennedy kept his job when Apps and the other stars returned from the service and helped launch a string of Stanley Cups from 1945, to his game-winning goal over the Habs in ’47, to the Bill Barilko Cup in ’51. Kennedy had the knack of making players around him better.
“We came back from overseas and he kept Vic Lynn and I in the league four years,” linemate and future broadcaster Howie Meeker told The Fan 590 yesterday. “It was hard to get the puck off him. I only saw him in one or two fights, but he was pretty good (wielding) his stick.”
Kennedy later developed a passion for thoroughbred racing.
“I roomed with him four years and he always carried around a big horse breeders book,” Meeker said. “He knew the stud lines of any horse in North America. He loved the horses almost as much as he loved hockey.”
Kennedy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. He spent all 14 NHL seasons as a Leaf and won the Hart in 1955, playing one more year before retiring. In a famous 1951 photo, he greeted the future Queen Elizabeth at a special afternoon exhibition game at the Gardens against the Blackhawks prior to the season opener.
In the book The Maple Leafs Top 100 by Mike Leonetti and John Iaboni, Kennedy is ranked as the second best player in club history behind Dave Keon. His No. 9 banner was raised in 1993 and still hangs at the Air Canada Centre.