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Hall of Fame

Eric Lindros humbled by Hall of Fame

Struggles to put into words what honor means to him after receiving ring

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

TORONTO -- He trembled. He literally trembled.

Eric Lindros stood in the Great Hall at the Hockey Hall of Fame after receiving his ring Friday, surrounded by the plaques of the honored members -- the names, the faces, the bios, etched in glass for eternity. He was asked what it would mean to him to be inducted Monday.

He looked up at the stained glass in the ceiling. His huge shoulders shook. The mountain of a man was having an earthquake.

"It's just an honor," he said. "It really is. Look at the names on the plaques, and just being in here and …"

Pause.

"Jeez …"

Pause.

"It's the cream of the crop, right?"

Each year, this is one of the best moments of Hall of Fame weekend. The legends walk into the room where their plaques will be displayed, and it hits them. It humbles them. At the same time they are immortalized, they are humanized because it brings back their childhoods, their heroes, their memories, their love of the game.

Video: Look back at the Hall of Fame career of Eric Lindros

Lindros was larger than life, still is, 6-foot-4 with hockey gloves for hands. From a young age, he was compared to the cream of the crop -- Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier -- and expected to follow in their footsteps. This was supposed to be his destiny.

But he once was a kid with a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater who watched Borje Salming and Darryl Sittler on "Hockey Night in Canada," who had a Messier stick and a Messier poster and was thrilled to get tickets to see Messier at Maple Leaf Gardens.

And now, at 43, he will be on a plaque along with Salming and Sittler and Messier and more. He will be one of 271 people to make the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player.

You get the sense that he didn't need to make the Hockey Hall of Fame to validate his career. He knows how dominant he was in his prime. But he wouldn't say it or acknowledge it, even when pressed, saying only that he has "always felt pretty good about how things turned out" and was proud of what he did.

He politely answered questions about refusing to play for the Quebec Nordiques, clashing with Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke and dealing with concussions, but he kept everything positive. He shrugged off the fact that he had to wait six years before he finally got the call to the Hall, because it didn't matter anymore.

"Take whatever path you want," he said. "We're here forever, all of us."

He laughed. A lot.

"Well, I didn't know Stevie Y's middle name was Gregory," he said, looking up at the plaque of "Stephen Gregory (Steve) Yzerman" and roaring.

And he talked about the game with reverence and eloquence.

"I enjoy the action of it," he said. "I enjoy the rinks. I enjoy the ice. I enjoy the sounds. I enjoy the clink of a post, the feeling of moving a puck past the goaltender and seeing a red light go on. It's quick. It's intense. There's graceful times, and there's some really ungraceful times as well. It's the whole package. It brings people from all different walks of life together to have a common bond in terms of performance and winning. It's a world game."

Lindros had been to the Hall of Fame before, for his brother Brett's retirement announcement and charity events. So he had probably been in the Great Hall before. But if he had, he didn't remember. He certainly had never, as he put it, "cruised through" and absorbed all the history.

As he waited for the ring ceremony, he stood quietly and read some of the plaques. After he received his ring, he sat on a chair while fellow inductee Sergei Makarov spoke, staring at his ring in the box, taking it out carefully, trying it on, turning it over in his fingers like the prized possession it was. He later fumbled it, dropped it and scrambled to find it. As he waited to do a TV interview, he looked around. The Great Hall is an old bank but feels like a church.

"Quite the place, eh?" he said.

Lindros lives 10 minutes away. One day recently, his wife told him to drive by to see if their son Carl Pierre, 2, would recognize his face on a banner on the side of the building.

"Hockey! Daddy!"

Last weekend, the Oshawa Generals, Lindros' Ontario Hockey League team, held a ceremony to acknowledge his Hall of Fame induction. Father brought son along, and the boy waved to the crowd, dropped the puck and stood still for the national anthem.

"Couldn't believe it," Lindros said with a smile.

One day, when they're a little older and can understand, Lindros will be able to bring Carl Pierre and twins Ryan Paul and Sophie Rose, 1, to the Hockey Hall of Fame. They will be able to see the plaques of Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier … and Dad.

"Oh, for sure," Lindros said. "We'll be popping by. That's a given."

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