Eric Lindros does not, under any circumstance, belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Oh, he had a ton of talent. A truckload of physical strength and ability. And about a shot glass worth of smarts, intelligence and common sense. He provided a small handful of exciting moments to fans of the game. But he never, ever did anything of any magnitude that earned him even the briefest consideration for the Hall. And I’ll be staggered if the 18-man selection committee puts him in the Hall on Tuesday.
The very first time I saw Eric Lindros play in person was in December 1990, in his rookie season with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. In that game, at Oshawa’s Civic Auditorium, Lindros collided in open ice with Peterborough Petes’ forward Mike Ricci. Ricci looked like he’d been hit by a semi. Lindros simply kept skating. Lindros was a physical man playing with boys. That season, Lindros’ Gens won the Memorial Cup. But, at the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, Eric Lindros’ persona went way off the rails.
The Québec Nordiques chose Lindros first overall – and he made it clear that he would not be going to play in Quebec. Wait, let me modify that, for whatever reason the Lindros family made it clear that their little meal ticket would not be moving to La Belle Province. They had pulled the same crap in the past, when Eric was drafted into the OHL by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The Hounds were forced to trade Lindros to Oshawa. And that tells you all you need to know about Eric Lindros right there. The 18-year old’s family wanted him to play where they wanted him to play. Because 1992 was an Olympic year, Eric skated with the Canadian National Team. With 11 points in 8 games, Lindros led Canada to an Olympic silver medal in Albertville, France.
The Gong Show continued at the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, as Les Nordiques apparently traded Lindros to both the Flyers and Rangers. An arbitrator later ruled he belonged to Philadelphia. And it was suddenly time for the curtain to go up on the “Eric Lindros Era” in the NHL. Except it never did. Ever.
He scored some points in Philadelphia. He dominated some games. With 70 points in 46 games of the labour-dispute shortened 1994-95 season, he won a by-default Hart Trophy. In 1997, Lindros’ Flyers made his one and only trip to the Stanley Cup Final – where they got blasted by the Detroit Red Wings. And then, after just five NHL seasons, his pro career started an incredibly fast downhill slide. Injuries, and the fact that Philadelphia Flyers’ GM Bobby Clarke had seen enough of the off-ice Lindros’ family circus, turned things sour fast.
Clarke questioned Lindros’ toughness. Eric’s concussions, it seemed, became routine news items. Eventually, in Philly, the captain’s “C” was ripped right off his chest by Clarke. In the last game of his Flyers’ career, Lindros was knocked senseless by Scott Stevens – and the replay is shown every time there is a media panel on concussions.
Clarke traded Lindros to the Rangers – even though Lindros wanted to go to Toronto. Eric bounced around the NHL for another six years, doing nothing but getting injured.
So I simply cannot fathom why Lindros’ HHOF induction is even being debated. One Memorial Cup, 0 Stanley Cups, one highly suspect Hart Trophy. Countless injuries and a ridiculous number of off-ice dramas and incidents.
Eric Lindros didn’t play like a Hall-of-Famer. And he sure as hell never, ever acted like one. Hey, Eric, if you want into the Hall…buy a ticket.