“My name is Theodore.”
The outpouring of emotion from all corners of the hockey world today after news about the passing of Ted Green at the age of 79 on Tuesday came out isn’t surprising. Terrible Ted Green was known, respected and loved by many far and wide.
Whether it was his time as a tough-as-nails player with the Boston Bruins who got into an infamous stick swinging incident in 1969 with Wayne Maki, or the five Stanley Cups he won as a coach with the Edmonton Oilers, anybody who has paid attention to hockey in the last 40 years knows that side of Green — fiercely competitive, intimidating, loyal to his team. It’s all true, and we will hear those stories in the coming days.
I remember witnessing that first-hand when I first started hanging around the rink to cover the Oilers for the Edmonton Journal in the late 1980’s. Brought in as an assistant coach by friend and GM Glen Sather, Green had a steely stare, and if he fixed his eyes on you, you didn’t forget it. Green had vice-grips for hands, which he would sometimes rest on your shoulder during a conversation to accentuate a point. He’d never raise his voice, even in disagreement, he’d just gently squeeze. You didn’t forget that, either.
There was, however, a whole other side to Green. Underneath that hard-nosed exterior was a gentle, kind soul with a wicked sense of humour. He was witty. He was funny. He was a proud Manitoban. He was immensely loyal. For me, all those things defined him. They stick with you. You will hear many stories about that side of Ted Green from friends and teammates in coming days too, and I have one of them.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Longtime @NHL d-man & #Oilers coach Ted Green has passed away at the age of 79. Coach Green was part of all five Cup teams & will be dearly missed. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family.
The Rangers honoured him pre-game today & we'll be doing the same on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/01sA9eNjqO
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 12, 2019
Back in the early 2000s when his coaching days were over, Green began volunteering at The Mustard Seed here in Edmonton. He’d work in the kitchen washing dishes. He’d help serves meals to the homeless and those struggling with poverty. He preferred to work in the background. He didn’t want any attention. “I just want to help,” he told staff at TMS.
The first time I ever heard about The Mustard Seed and the work they do with those struggling with poverty and homelessness was when I got wind that Teddy was volunteering there. It seems that one day, when Green was helping serve a meal, a homeless man recognized him. When he got to Teddy he said, “Are you Ted Green? You look familiar.”
“No,” Green said with a smile. “My name is Theodore.” I asked TMS director Kris Knutson, who worked alongside Green back then, about that today. “He didn’t want people to know who he was for quite a while,” Knutson said. “He just wanted to come in and wash dishes or help out behind the scenes. It wasn’t for the better part of two years that he finally said, ‘You know, if my name can help, I’d be open to use it.’
“He literally just wanted to come and serve. That’s why he picked the kitchen. He wasn’t out in the public. He’d just come and go.” Apparently, Green came around so much that TMS gave him his own business cards. Teddy only wanted his name out there if it could help – like it did in getting TMS annual golf tournament up and running. Other than that, no fanfare. That was Teddy.
If there was ever a case of not being able to judge a book by its cover, Green is it. I wasn’t fortunate enough to know Green as well as so many people out there did, people who are aching now, but I’m grateful for having met this beautiful man and for the handful of conversations we had with one of those big hands of his resting on my shoulder.
The Oilers will honor Green at Rogers Place before Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. My condolences to Teddy’s wife Pat, the Green family, the Oilers, his countless friends around the hockey world and the many mourning his passing. Godspeed, Ted Green.