In 1989 I was taken to my first NHL game to see the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitols. For the next 2-3 years, I watched the Flyers on and off. And then the 1991 draft happened.
Eric Lindros was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques but refused to play there. The New York Rangers and the Flyers were in talks with the Nordiques to acquire Lindros. Both teams had proposals on the table and it went in front of an arbitrator who ruled he would become property of the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers gave up Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, 2 First Round Draft picks, and $15 million dollars to acquire the rights to Lindros.
Lindros was pegged as the next one. The hockey world had not seen this type of hype surrounding a prospect since Lemieux and Gretzky. In his introductory press conference, Lindros said “Im going to make it my way and its not always going to please people.” I can assure you their was a 9 year old kid in Laflin PA who was pleased.
Growing up when I did, I missed the Flyers championship runs in the 80s. When I began watching, they were a mediocre team at best. And then the trade for Lindros happened. The buzz heightened and the first time I saw him skate, I was hooked on hockey.
Eric Lindros dominated in every way possible. He was 6-4 240lbs. He could skate, he could shoot, he could pass, he could score, and he was physical. The NHL had not seen a player like him before or since. It was a treat to watch this guy play hockey night in and night out.
Lindros led the Flyers on playoff runs through the 90s and took the Flyers to the Cup Finals in 1997. However, he was never able to achieve the ultimate goal by hoisting the cup. Despite his dominance, his career here was always marred with questions, controversies, and injuries. A dispute between him and the organization ultimately ended his tenure with the Flyers which spanned the 92-2000 seasons.
In those 8 years as a Flyer, he played in 486 games. He scored 290 goals in that span which ranks him 4th behind Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Sleanne, and Pavel Bure. He is 8th in assists with 369. He ranks 5th with 659 points. His plus/minus rating of +188 is the best during those years. He also compiled 946 penalty minutes which speaks to his physical play. He averaged 1.36 points per game which is second only to Jagr. He played in the All Star game 6 of those years and he won the Hart trophy (MVP) in 94-95. He is the only player to win the MVP not in the Hall of Fame.
His stats and his presence on the ice were incredible. However, there will always be what if questions that surround his legacy. What if his Flyers career wasnt clouded in coaching controversies? What if his parents werent overbearing and involved? What if he didnt have a collapsed lung? What if there were no contract disputes? What if he skated with his head up more often?
To me the what ifs can be played with anyone. I will remember the what was. I will remember how he can change the momentum of a game with one shift. I will remember the physical play the hits, fights, and bulling people over int he face off dot. I will remember his 18 game point streak. I will remember the points per game. I will remember the game against Ottawa he had 6 assists. I will remember the 4 goal night vs Toronto. I will remember the 41 goals as a rookie that hooked me. I will remember the playoff runs. I will remember the Cup run in 97 and the unbelievable MVP season.
Because of these memories, I am hooked. These memories lead me to the TV whenever the orange and black are playing. The memories have led me on many playoff runs and a cup run in 2010. Ultimately, many heartbreaking seasons that still leave me empty in terms of cups.
Eric Lindros arrived in 1992 and he did it his way. He didnt always please people. But he pleased this guy. He hooked this guy on the sport. And many will always ask what if but I will always remember what was.
Thanks for the memories Big E