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Hall of Fame

Eric Lindros earns due with Hall of Fame induction

Flyers great delivers heartfelt speech thanking family for guidance during career

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

TORONTO -- Before Eric Lindros broke into the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1992, he and his father, Carl, came over to Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke's house for dinner. His father and Clarke were having a beer together when Clarke looked outside.

There was Lindros, playing street hockey with Clarke's 10-year-old son, Lucas.

"It was special -- special for my kid, anyway," Clarke said. "He will never forget that."

So much happened afterward, but as Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, this was an occasion to remember the good times and keep the rest in perspective.

Yes, Lindros was plagued by injuries, particularly concussions. He and his family clashed with Clarke, and Clarke stripped him of the captaincy during the 1999-2000 season. He sat out the 2000-01 season in a contract dispute and was traded. 

Yes, he retired at age 33 with 760 regular-season games played in the NHL after stints with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars. He had to wait six years to make the Hockey Hall of Fame.

But Clarke, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, leaves no doubt.

Video: HHOF Red Carpet: Bobby Clarke on Eric Lindros

Lindros was a dominant force at his peak, a unique combination of size, strength, speed and skill. From 1992-93 through his final season with the Flyers in 1999-2000, he averaged 1.36 points per game. Only Mario Lemieux (2.11) and Jaromir Jagr (1.45) averaged more.

He centered John LeClair and Mikael Renberg on the "Legion of Doom" line, won the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player in 1995 and led the Stanley Cup Playoffs in scoring in 1997, when the Flyers made the Final.

"He was the best player in the game for quite a few years," Clarke said on the red carpet. "There still hasn't been another player like him, with that size and skating ability and skill and some nastiness. We all dream of having a player like that, and the Flyers were lucky they had him for a while. …

"He deserved to go in the Hall of Fame. He certainly earned it."

As he has in the past, Clarke said he didn't like how Lindros' parents had criticized the Flyers medical staff. But he also recognized that they were trailblazers.

"I understand better now than I did then that his dad was looking out for Eric, which he should have done," he said. "I think it started the NHL looking to find out more and do more for … I don't know necessarily for Eric, but for every player who gets a concussion. He started all that concussion stuff."

In his speech, Lindros thanked his parents, who supported him amid the "glare of the media."

Video: NHL Tonight: The Dominance of Eric Lindros

"Every kid should be so lucky to have parents who aren't afraid to tell them all of their options," Lindros said. "My parents offered me guidance and direction they thought was best for me and allowed me to make my own decisions. They never wavered, even when those choices may not have been popular."

Clarke and Lindros played in an alumni game together before the 2012 NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia, and they spoke last month at an event at Wells Fargo Center. Clarke said they had a "nice conversation" and Lindros seemed "at peace."

"I've never had any animosity to Eric," Clarke said. "I know he was mad at the Flyers for a while, but it's a long way in the past."

Asked about Clarke after the ring ceremony Friday, Lindros said: "There's no point in being negative. We disagreed about some things. It's over. Let's move forward, and let's be better."

In his speech Monday, Lindros thanked his wife, Kina. After he left Philadelphia, he struggled with how he wasn't the player he used to be. After he retired, he struggled with how he wasn't a player anymore, period.

"My journey through the hockey world was a roller coaster, and there were times when I was left bitter," he said. "Kina has taught me balance. She has taught me how to let go of negative feelings. Since the time I started playing pro hockey until today, my life is as good as it's ever been. I've never been happier."

At the end of his speech, Lindros invited his brother, Brett, onstage. He said they had dreamed of playing together in the NHL but never got the chance. His brother played 51 games for the New York Islanders and retired at age 20 because of concussions.

Video: Eric Lindros discusses Legion of Doom line

"I would like to close this chapter of my life with you beside me," Lindros said.

But don't confuse any of this with closure. 

"It never needed closure," Clarke said. "In my mind, Eric was always one of the best players who ever played hockey in Philadelphia. He was a huge asset to our organization, and those of us who spent most of our life in the Flyers organization are really proud of Eric."

In an interview before his induction, Lindros said: "When you read a book and you finish a chapter and you go to the next one, have you finished the book? I don't know where you draw the line in terms of closure.

"I think what you learned in the previous chapter is going to relate to what you learn in the next chapter. So I don't think there's a clear line in the sand and one shuts the door and the other one just opens up. But the hockey career also opens the doors to other things. It's a direct bridge for other opportunities."

Time moves on. Life goes on. Married, the father of three young children, active in business and charity, still a pickup hockey player, now a Hall of Famer, Lindros has more chapters to write.

"Absolutely," he said.

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