Ted “Teeder” Kennedy was one of the most tenacious and inspirational players of his time. The Ontario-born native played two games for the Toronto Maple Leafs during World War II at just 17 years old. In 1943-44, Kennedy joined the Leafs on a full-time basis, impressing with 49 points in 49 games. Kennedy pushed his game to another level in the 1944-45 season with three more goals and two more assists for 54 points in 49 games, this time leading the Maple Leafs in scoring and finishing 5th in the NHL. Kennedy continued to improve throughout the playoffs, scoring more goals than anyone else and helping the Maple Leafs surprise as the 1945 Stanley Cup Champions.
Kennedy had a very unimpressive and injured 1945-46 season, playing in just 21 games and managing just 5 points. He bounced back forcefully in the 1946-47 season after being placed on a line with Howie Meeker and Vic Lynn and set career bests in assists (32) and points (60) in 60 games. Kennedy and the Leafs would win the Stanley Cup in 1947, beginning arguably the second dynasty in NHL history. Kennedy had a 25-goal season in the 1947-48 season during which the Leafs were a dominant team. Despite his slightly sub-par regular season, Kennedy came alive in the playoffs and led the NHL in goals (8) and points (14) in 9 games. The Leafs won their second consecutive Stanley Cup and in dominant fashion.
Following the 1948 Stanley Cup, captain Syl Apps retired, leaving the position vacant. It was decided that the 24-year old Kennedy would take over as the Leafs’ new captain. The 1948-49 season was a surprisingly poor one for the Leafs. After winning two Cups, they struggled out of the gate before recovering just enough to make it in the playoffs. Kennedy, like the rest of the Leafs, struggled in the regular season. However, also like the Leafs, he came alive in the 1949 playoffs, and led the NHL in assists with six in nine games, leading Toronto to it’s third consecutive Cup, becoming the first NHL team to accomplish such a a feat.
In the NHL’s first 70-game season in 1949-50, Kennedy played in just 53 games, but showed signs of improving his regular season statistics, scoring 44 points in those games. Kennedy’s leadership and improved played earned him a 2nd place nod in the Hart voting for the season, as well as a spot on the Second All-Star Team. Kennedy and fellow hard-nosed forward Gordie Howe had somewhat of a rivalry going on in the late 40s and early 50s and they met in the 1950 Stanley Cup semifinals. After attempting to barrel into Kennedy, Howe missed and crashed headfirst into the board, needing an emergency operation to release the pressure from his skull. Howe would miss the remainder of the playoffs, but despite missing their star winger, the Red Wings came out on top, besting the Maple Leafs in a seven game series.
Kennedy completed his return to stardom in the 1950-51 season with an impressive 43 assists that led the NHL, giving him 61 points in the 63 games he played. Kennedy finished 5th in point scoring in the NHL, ahead of fellow Ted, Ted Lindsay. Kennedy finished 5th in Hart voting and was again voted onto the Second All-Star Team. Kennedy would score 9 points in 11 games as the Leafs won the Stanley Cup in a thrilling Finals with the Montreal Canadiens, with Bill Barilko scoring his famed overtime Stanley Cup winner to with the 1951 Stanley Cup. Kennedy’s offense dropped down a bit in the 1951-52 season dropping to 9th in the NHL and 2nd to Sid Smith on the Leafs.
The 1952-53 season was an injury-filled, yet offensively impressive season for Kennedy. Despite playing in just 43 games, he scored 37 points, giving him a points-per-game of 0.86, below only to top three point scorers in the NHL. Despite his short season, Kennedy again finished 5th in Hart voting. Despite an offensively sub-par 1953-54 season, “Teeder” Kennedy was still voted to the Second All-Star Team. Kennedy had one final strong season in the 1954-55 year, finally winning the Hart Trophy with a 52-point season, his value to the Leafs being acknowledged. Follow a series sweep by the Red Wings, Kennedy suddenly announced his retirement at the very young age of just 29. Kennedy missed the entire 1955-56 season, but in 1956-57, as the Leafs were struggling to make the playoffs, Kennedy made a comeback during the second half of the season to aid the Leafs. He shared the captaincy upon returning and managed 22 points in 30 games, but the Leafs failed to qualify for the post-season.
Kennedy would then retire for good, now at 31 years of age. Kennedy provided a good mix of goal scoring and play-making and retired as the 6th highest point scorer in NHL history with 560 points. Unsurprisingly, Kennedy was also the all-time in goals, assists, and points for the Leafs. His goal and point totals weren’t surpassed until the 1965-66 season and his assist total was passed in 1966-67 by George Armstrong. Kennedy’s No. 9 was honoured in 1993 and retired in 2016 by the Leafs. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.