As mentioned in my first column, I was born and grew up in Detroit, Michigan, in the late 1940s to 1960s. As a kid there were three things that occupied my time: automobiles, Motown music, and sports (e.g., the Detroit Tigers, Lions, Pistons, and Red Wings). With my father, grandfather, and uncle, I would head down to Olympia Arena on Grand River Avenue to watch the Red Wings play. Besides the hockey games, what I remember most about the Olympia Arena was the smell of stale beer.
At the time, Detroit was synonymous with cars (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors). My grandfather, who worked at the Ford Rouge Plant, would talk about the production (i.e., assembly) line. There was another production line, however, in Detroit that had nothing to do with cars. Production Line was the nickname of the most famous scoring line in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL), which played for the Detroit Red Wings. When the Production Line stepped out on the ice for a game, they would inevitably score a goal. This forward line consisted of Sid Abel (center), Ted Lindsay (left wing), and Gordie Howe (right wing).
Abel, Lindsay, and Howe were the best of friends on and off the ice. They were colleagues and respected each other. Each member of the Production Line had his own strengths and weaknesses. Abel was older and slower, but knew the opposing team's defense and had the vision to see the play developing as they came up the ice. Lindsay and Howe were younger, faster, and agile, but they were also inpatient. Abel would bring the puck up the ice, size up the position of the defense, and then angle the puck so only Lindsay or Howe could reach it before the defensemen could react. Abel knew that with their speed, Lindsay and Howe would get to the puck and take a shot on goal.
Many years later, a famous hockey player by the name of Wayne Gretzky was asked what made him so great. He said, "I go where the puck is going to be." The Production Line was doing that 30 years earlier. In the 1949-1950 NHL season, Lindsay, Abel, and Howe would finish 1, 2, and 3 in scoring, respectively--a feat that had never been done before and has not been done since.
Other aspects made the Production Line great. The three of them would practice. Of course, they would practice with the rest of the team; however, many times they would stay late and practice between themselves. They would practice to not only improve their individual skills but also their skills and abilities...