Before Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, there was Eric Lindros. Lindros was seen as “The Next One”, the generational player who would turn around the fortunes of an NHL franchise and be the centerpiece for Team Canada in future international tournaments. Lindros’s career was polarizing due to his infamous refusal to play for the Quebec Nordiques and concussion problems that led him to challenge the NHL code of playing through the pain. After a long wait, Lindros was finally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and based on the warm reception he received, Lindros has come a long way in repairing his reputation.
A Unique Combination
Lindros was an absolutely dominant player when he was healthy. With 865 points in 760 games to go alongside 1,398 penalty minutes, there hasn’t been a player to come along since with Lindros’s combination of gifts. Blessed with size, speed and skill, Lindros was a big man with a small player’s skill, a rare breed especially in his era.
Not many players have the ability to completely run over an opposing player and then go end to end for a highlight reel goal, but Lindros was the exception. He was at his best during his days with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he won a Hart Trophy, went to the Stanley Cup Final, and strung together some outstanding seasons such as his 115 points in 73 games in 1995-96. NHL teams dream of finding a prototype player like Lindros who had it all as a hockey player.
The Nordiques drama aside, a lot of the controversy surrounding Lindros’s career was related to concussions. At a time when players were expected to play through all ailments, Lindros took charge of his health first and was ridiculed for it. While publicly criticizing the Flyers for how they handled the diagnosis of his concussions may not have been the best move, Lindros was also correct in the sense that his health needed to come first. Since then, Crosby sat out for months at a time recovering from his concussion issues and was not derided for doing so, showing how the culture of the game has changed since Lindros’s time.
During the Legends game on the Hockey Hall of Fame weekend, Lindros received a welcome reception from the crowd at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and many spectators could be seen wearing Lindros jerseys. For this weekend at least, the drama surrounding his career was ignored in favour of celebrating who he was a player.
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) November 15, 2016
As shown in the video above, Lindros ended his speech at the induction ceremony by inviting his brother Brett on stage, whose own hockey career ended at age 19 due to concussions. Lindros’s impact on the game shines through to this day, from the idea of a big player having that much skill to having the sense to sit out while concussed and taking control of his health.
Since then, concussions have been taken a lot more seriously as players are less likely to jeopardize their health. Lindros may have been ridiculed at the time for his decisions but someone had to blaze the trail, and now players everywhere are better for it. His reputation has come a long way since his retirement in 2007, as he is finally being appreciated for what he did for the game of hockey. Some will continue to see Lindros as selfish or soft, but there is no doubt he was a dominant player during his prime and left a lasting impact on the game.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.