Eric Lindros was built to flourish in an era when so many would be unable.
Skilled and bullish, Lindros was the 1990s prototypical power centre, a player who scored 372 goals and 865 points despite having his explosiveness limited by clutching and grabbing, and his NHL career cut short by concussions.
Long awaited and richly deserved, the 43-year-old Lindros will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday in Toronto. The Big E told stories from his time in the game for an hour Friday on Hockey Central at Noon.
“I didn’t have a fun time at the end,” admitted Lindros, who retired on Nov. 8, 2007. He was just 34. “I wasn’t the same player after I got hit a few times, knocked out. I wasn’t even close.”
A 1998 hit delivered by Pittsburgh’s Darius Kasparaitis sidelined the Philadelphia Flyers star for 18 games, but that would be just the first in a series of concussions suffered. The hit Scott Stevens laid on Lindros in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference final remains the most memorable, but Lindros would need two hands to count all the shots he took to the head.
“It wears on you that you can’t play to the same level that you once could. You’re not the same. The fear of cutting through the middle…” Lindros said Friday. He contributed in New York, Toronto and Dallas, but his days as a dominating force were over. “You know it’s time.”
The Hall of Famer looks at the teenagers and twentysomethings flying around the ice today and sees a generation aided by the post-2005-lockout rules that rid hockey of its obstruction. The department of player safety’s effort to crackdown on high hits is important, too.
“It’s a real benefit,” said Lindros. He was wowed by Team North America this fall, when he watched Connor McDavid & Co. defeat Sweden live at Air Canada Centre.
“It was incredible to watch these guys go: their speed, their ability to transition left and right, and their mobility. They’re just so fast, and they rip the puck. There’s not one guy out there who can’t rip the puck.”
Lindros is outspoken on the need for increased concussion research and urges more collaboration between sports, from horseback riding to skiing, in developing protocols and prevention.
“I’m so nervous people are going to turn away from hockey because of concussions,” he said. “They’re going to happen, but let’s take care of them.”
Lindros still plays shinny every week in Toronto and has a blast.
To honour their latest inductee, the Flyers will all wear No. 88 sweaters for warm-ups Friday night at ACC before playing the Maple Leafs.