While his enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame will be a widely-debated subject, Eric Lindros will take the first steps towards legitimacy in our town later this evening.
That’s when the 39-year-old Oshawa, Ontario native will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, one of 15 people from across the sports world who have made an impact here.
The ninth inducted class also includes Phoenixville native and catcher Mike Piazza as well as former Sixers player and current head coach Doug Collins.
A walking, talking lightning rod ever since he spurned the Quebec Nordiques, who selected him first overall in the 1991 draft, Lindros was dealt to the Flyers for six players in late June of 1992, in a deal fraught with intrigue once found only in James Bond movies.
Lindros returned from Canada in mid-December last year, along with former linemate John LeClair, to raise funds for Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. He made his reappearance on Philadelphia ice for the Alumni Classic on December 31 at Citizens Bank Park, the first time fans were able to see the hulking forward suit up in Orange and Black since his acrimonious split from the club following the 1999-2000 season.
Perhaps an indicator of the rift between past and present, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and team president Peter Luukko attended the fund-raising luncheon in Center City, while former GM Bob Clarke and chairman Ed Snider did not. Despite reports by media outlets to the affirmative, Lindros and Clarke did not have a clearing of the air between them during the events surrounding the Winter Classic, both men meeting only briefly.
That doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of a rare talent which put hockey back on the map in this town.
Named team captain in 1994 and voted the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP for the lockout-shortened 1995 season, Lindros participated in 536 total games over eight seasons here, racking up 290 goals and 659 points in 486 contests along with 24 goals and 57 points in 50 playoff tilts. A six-time All-Star, he ranks fifth in points, tied for fifth in assists, and eighth in goals, while standing 12th in total penalty minutes (946).
The focal point for a mid-90s Renaissance, Lindros helped the club reach three Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Finals, primarily part of the “Legion of Doom” along with LeClair and Mikael Renberg. Largely due to a feud between Lindros, his father/agent and Clarke over concussion protocol, Lindros was stripped of his captaincy in March of 2000, days after suffering a concussion when hit by Boston’s Hal Gill. He did not return to action until Game 6 of the conference finals, then was knocked out again in the first period of a Game 7 loss to New Jersey when hit by Devils defenseman Scott Stevens.
After sitting out the 2000-01 season while demanding a trade to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, Lindros was dealt to the Rangers in August of 2001, then spent time with the Leafs and Stars before retiring for good in 2007.
Lindros, now a resident of Toronto, will join Bernie Parent, Clarke, Bill Barber, Fred Shero, Ron Hextall, and Mark Howe as individually-recognized Philly hall members from the Flyers organization. In addition, the collective 1974-75 Stanley Cup teams as well as Princeton grad/college hockey trophy namesake Hobey Baker have been enshrined in the hockey category.
Will this be enough to thaw the relationship between former superstar and those with influence in the organization, so that Lindros might be able to have a night in his honor? He is certainly deserving.
But when you consider that the most influential defenseman in club history — Mark Howe — was only honored with a jersey retirement once the HHOF honored him 16 years after his playing career was over, you’d have to believe that more time must pass before Lindros will receive his due.