Flyers Honor One of the Greats: Eric Lindros

Prior to the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, the Philadelphia Flyers will honor one of the greatest to ever don the Orange and Black. The No. 88, worn throughout the entirety of Eric Lindros’ career, will be retired by the Flyers organization. He is considered one of the greatest offensive threats in team history over his eight-year, 486-game Flyer career.

Eric Lindros
(Credit: Steve Babineau/Allsport)

Lindros will be the sixth player to have his number retired by the Flyers. The other greats include Bernie Parent (1), Mark Howe (2), Barry Ashbee (4), Bill Barber (7), and Bobby Clarke (16).

Lindros’ Unique NHL Start

Every number-one overall pick has aspirations and projections of being a future Hall of Famer. In 1991, Eric Lindros was drafted with the first pick by the Quebec Nordiques, but his road to the Hall of Fame did not begin immediately. Lindros refused to sign with Quebec and spent the year playing with the Oshawa Generals instead.

Fearing that they would lose their number-one pick without any compensation, Quebec finally gave in and traded Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers for five players, two draft picks and cash. It was a hefty load to give up for a rookie, but the Flyers had confidence that Lindros was a unique type of player that doesn’t come around often. It would turn out to be a great trade as the Flyers landed themselves a superstar.

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Lindros was a forward like no other coming out of junior hockey. He was compared to the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, destined to be the next great star of the NHL. With size, strength, great footwork, and a complete offensive skill set, Lindros had all the makings of a hockey legend. After just his first week in the NHL, it was clear that he was ready to live up to the expectations.

A Hockey Hall of Fame Career

At the ripe old age of 19, Eric Lindros began his NHL and Flyers career in Pittsburgh. He opened up the best way a rookie could, by breaking the ice with his first NHL goal. Things got hot on the ice early for Lindros who scored four goals in his first four NHL games. His first at home was in the home opener against the New Jersey Devils. It was one to remember, and it really epitomized the greatness that Flyers fans would be blessed with for many years.

Lindros scored a franchise rookie-record 41 goals in his first season. He scored 27 or more goals in all eight seasons with the Flyers including four 40-plus goal seasons. He is also the youngest captain in Flyers history, being awarded the ‘C’ at the age of 21. In 1994-95, Lindros won the Hart Trophy with 29 goals, 41 assists, and 70 points in 46 games played. In 1995-96, he had the best season of his career with 47 goals, 68 assists, and 115 points — all career highs.

Lindros was nothing short of sensational with the Flyers. He carried the team out of the misery it was in to begin the decade. Playing alongside John LeClair and Mikael Renberg as the center of the “Legion of Doom” in the mid-1990s, Lindros and the Flyers took over the NHL. In 1997, he led the team to an Eastern Conference Championship and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. He had 12 goals and 14 assists in the 1997 playoffs. Lindros finished his eight-year career with the Orange and Black with 290 goals, 369 assists, and 659 points. He is fifth on the Flyers all-time scoring list.

The turn of the millennium saw a change of scenery for Lindros as he traded in the orange and black for the red and blue of the New York Rangers. Lindros played three seasons with the Rangers tallying 66 goals, 92 assists, and 158 points in 192 games. He also played one season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and one season with the Dallas Stars before retiring in 2007, but it was his time with the Philadelphia Flyers that made him a Hall of Famer.

Related: Line of the Times: The Legion of Doom

A Career Cut Short by Concussions

Eric Lindros was able to put up Hall of Fame numbers despite a career that was plagued by injury and concussions. He was a power forward that was not afraid to hit. He had a scoring mindset that said get to the net no matter who stands in his way. His size allowed him to overpower opponents and open up opportunities all over the ice.

The game was much more physical during his time than it is today, and Lindros embraced the style of play. He understood that you had to get on the forecheck to get on the puck. He slammed into players, punched the glass, and played with emotion. He was a revolutionary player that could have impacted the game immensely had it not been for his injuries.

Eric Lindros Maple Leafs
Eric Lindros during his time in Toronto (Icon SMI)

Lindros had previously dealt with nagging injuries, especially to his knee, but it was the concussions that really cut his career short. His first concussion came in the 1997-98 season, and things began to unravel for him from there. Pittsburgh’s Darius Kasparaitis delivered the first blow to Lindros in March of 1998. Over the next 16 months, Lindros would suffer five more concussions. The aftereffects of repeated concussions became too great for him toward the end of his Flyers career. The final play for 88 as a Flyer is one that makes fans cringe. He had to be helped off the ice after suffering a vicious hit from Scott Stevens in the 2000 ECF.

By the time he was traded to the Rangers in 2001, Lindros could not be as physical as he was in the past. The concussions impacted him in a way that even delivering a hit to an opponent would disrupt him. Various injuries limited him during the remainder of his career. A wrist injury in Toronto caused him to play only 33 games in 2005-06. Finally, he ended his career with the Stars, playing just 49 games.

The statistics are great for Eric Lindros. He is a Hall of Famer who had the talent to be a hockey legend that changed the game of hockey. Unfortunately, injuries kept him from being one of the truly impactful all-time greats.

A Night to Remember for No. 88

Thursday night is Eric Lindros’ night. The Flyers are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lindros’ favorite team growing up. It is going to be a special night and Lindros recognizes that saying, “For [Holmgren] to pick the night the Leafs are in town is certainly special.” The ovation will certainly be memorable with any Maple Leafs fans in Philly also expected to rise and cheer for one of their former players, even if it was for just one season.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When President Paul Holmgren, who chose this night for the retirement ceremony, was asked about the former Hart Trophy winner, he said:

“Eric has made an incredible and lasting impact on the Flyers organization, our fans and the game of hockey as a whole. We could not be more proud to raise his No. 88 to the rafters. We look forward to what is anticipated to be a historic night for the Flyers.”

Well, the night has arrived! Lindros is a standup guy who has already given high praise to his teammates, the organization, and the NHL for all they have given him and for helping him achieve such tremendous success. More of the same is expected when he takes the microphone to talk to the Wells Fargo Center crowd.

The moment never seemed too large for Lindros throughout his career. The jersey retirement appears to be no different. “I don’t think it really sinks in till you kind of walk through it, but I’m certainly excited about it.” The hockey world is excited as well, Eric Lindros.