It may be difficult for today’s newest generations of hockey fans to imagine, but when Eric Lindros broke into the NHL he was unlike any player who had ever played before. In his rookie season with the Philadelphia Flyers, Lindros netted 41 goals and 75 points in just 61 games. He’d go on to 290 goals and 659 points in 486 career games in Philly and leave a lasting impression on the city, his teammates and the entire National Hockey League.
But, much like Lindros’ time overall in the NHL, his time with the Flyers was shrouded in controversy and intrigue. He would eventually sit out the entire 2000-01 season before moving on to play three middling seasons with the New York Rangers. Eventually Lindros would wind up with his hometown team the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing just 33 games for the club in 2005-06, his second to last season in the NHL.
His iconic #88 will go into the rafters tonight at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Cente, as the Flyers retire it alongside the iconic numbers of Bernie Parent, Mark Howe, Barry Ashbee, Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke. Lindros joined TSN 1050 yesterday afternoon to talk about tonight’s historic event and to reflect on his brief time as a Maple Leaf.
“Looking back, you focus on the best of it,” said the Hall of Famer. “Certainly leaving [Philadelphia]… it wasn’t on wonderful terms, but before that there were so many great things…. friends you’ve met, situations you were in and just great times.”
“Well it took awhile but I finally got there, for a cup of coffee at least,” said Lindros reflecting on his time in Toronto. “While our team wasn’t very successful, there were some good moments there, as well.”
So, what does Lindros think about this current incarnation of the Leafs? And in particular, it’s newest superstar Auston Matthews? “Good for him. He’s playing really well, the city is excited about it,” says the former 1st overall pick to the Leafs’ 1st overall pick.
Again, for fans who are too young to remember, Lindros was easily the most dominant player of the 1990’s, in a decade FULL of talented superstar players like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr and others. He played the game like no one before or after himself, using his size and aggression as a weapon. Of course, Lindros was not a perfect player and by the time he arrived in Toronto, he was really a shell of his former self. Multiple concussions and other nagging injuries had broken down the former Hart Trophy winner, to the point where he could only get himself healthy for 33 games during his season in Toronto.
In Toronto there were a LOT of people walking around the city with #88 Leafs jerseys. Despite struggling with the Rangers, there was still considerable hype surrounding Lindros when he signed with the Leafs. Of course, he was a massive disappointment with the Leafs, finishing 13th on the team in scoring. He’d depart the next season for the Dallas Stars and then call it a career after another injury shortened campaign.