Part 2: Flyers, Rangers each make deal for Lindros
The Eric Lindros affair changed the fate of three NHL franchises and four cities. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Lindros' first game for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Quebec Nordiques, NHL.com looks back -- through the words of those who experienced it -- at his unique arrival in the League and that memorable debut in Quebec City.
"[Lindros] had a short list of clubs that he was most interested in going to play for. The New York Rangers were very high on that list. Which is why -- and Neil knew this because he and I had had conversations -- and that's why Neil had taken me aside into the corridor of the Montreal Forum and we had the conversation regarding what it would take if they did in fact acquire his rights, what it would take to sign him. I never had that type of conversation with the Flyers because my only conversation with the Flyers at that point was to call Jay Snider and respectfully ask him if it was true what I had been hearing, which is that they were pursuing the possibility of trading for Eric. He and I had a conversation, and it was a brief one strictly regarding their interest and the feeling [from the Lindros family] toward that interest. That was it. There were no contract discussions, there were no numbers. No, 'What would you like?' Our conversation had nothing to do with the possibility or whatever the contract terms might have been, or what we were looking for."
'92-93 SEASON: ERIC LINDROS TRADE
Part 1: Lindros trade shakes the foundations
By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor Just prior to the start of the 1992 NHL Draft, the Nordiques twice traded Eric Lindros' rights -- first to the Flyers then to the Rangers. After a week-long arbitration process, the result was the biggest trade in NHL history. READ MORE ›
"I had no idea what was going on. I was tired, I was mad because I hadn't partaken in what I normally did the night before the draft, which is be together with the scouts all night discussing the draft. I was going to the draft totally unprepared myself because I had been working on this trade."
"Finally at maybe 9, 10 a.m. the morning of the draft, Marcel [Aubut, Nordiques owner] called and said, 'OK, we have a deal,' and gave us Lindros' phone number. And one of the things we had asked for was, before we completed the deal we wanted to speak to them and make sure that he would play in Philadelphia, and that was a final condition of ours, knowing that family was keen on making their own decision on where he played. Marcel continued to insist, 'You can't talk to him until we have a deal.' I said, 'Once we have one then we have to talk to him before it's finalized.' He called and said, 'We have a deal' and gave us the number -- that meant we finally had him."
"I remember being at the draft in Montreal and Neil Smith took me aside [Saturday morning], and he said to me, 'I think we're pretty close to getting Eric's rights but I need to talk to you about the contract,' and I said, 'Fine.' To that point I had been carrying around with me an envelope with all my notes with specific numbers of what I was prepared to sign Eric for and why. We went off to a corridor at the Montreal Forum at the draft and he said, 'How much?' and we talked and I told him, and he said, 'Well, I'm not going to pay him that much money,' and he said, 'Here's what I will pay him,' and he told me. And I said I wasn't sure if that was enough to get the deal done. We started debating about the consequences of him not accepting the contract and where it would go. I knew the Rangers were involved at that point."
"We thought we made the trade. We called Eric and I got in a cab and went to the draft."
PLANS CHANGE; GRIEVANCE IS FILED
"Marcel then came to our room, as we were getting ready to walk to the draft floor. Our scouts were already there. We were just about to walk out the door and he knocks on the door and said, 'I traded [Lindros] to the Rangers.'"
"Jay called me and said, 'Aubut is backing out, he tried to trade him somewhere else,' and that's where it was. He said, 'I'm not going over [to the draft], I'm taking a car to ...,' he was going to file a grievance. In the meantime, we pulled our guys together. We thought we had traded our pick so we pulled our guys together and said we had to pick."
"I was just pretty much in shock. I didn't know how to react. This was crazy. I called my dad [Flyers owner Ed Snider] and I said, 'You're not going to believe this -- Marcel said, I traded him to the Rangers.' Just like that, happy as could be, typical Marcel Aubut. … Our first reaction was, 'You know what? Screw it, this deal is too much and to hell with it at this point, let's just let it go.' And then I don't know if it was that conversation or he called back five minutes later, but he said, 'Before we do that, go talk to Gil Stein,' League's general counsel, 'and find out what our rights are.' I went to the draft floor, sought out Gil, explained our situation, Gil said, 'Let's get John [Ziegler, NHL president].' We go into a back room, talk about the situation and he said, 'Jay, you can arbitrate this.' I said, 'OK I'm arbitrating this -- what do I do?'"
Jim Gregory, NHL vice president of hockey operations
"[Ziegler and Stein] asked me a couple questions, but nothing serious. I just told them that Larry Bertuzzi, who was doing work for the NHL, was an unbelievable lawyer, had a perception about hockey, and would be a good man. They listened."
In his rookie season with the Flyers in 1992-93, Eric Lindros scored 41 goals, 34 assists, and 75 points in 61 games on the way to making the NHL All-Rookie Team. (Photo: Getty Images)
"At some point I had been told that he had been traded to the New York Rangers and then I was told Quebec had traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers. So, at some point, while I'm sitting there, I realized he had been traded twice."
"I went out to the floor and I said to Neil, 'Don't announce this deal because I'm arbitrating it.' He had made a deal with us already and we confirmed it and called Lindros."
"[Snider] was on the Forum floor and says to me, 'Neil, don't announce your deal.' And I said, 'What deal?' And he said, 'Your deal with Lindros.' I said, 'Jay I don't know if I've got a deal or not.' He said, 'Because we're going to go to arbitration on this because we made a deal with them.' I said, 'I'm really tired and I'm just trying to conduct the draft here. I don't care what we do.'"
"[Smith] looked up at me and he was sick of it too. He said, 'I'm so sick of this.' He just rolled his eyes. He was so done with the whole process, but his ownership was pushing it really hard. I went up to Aubut and tapped him on the shoulder -- apparently very hard. I said, 'We had a deal, don't announce this, I'm going to arbitration, you can go talk to Ziegler or whatever.' Everybody in the French paper, they called it 'The Hit.'"
"I went down and spoke with Neil Smith, and I spoke with Russ Farwell to see what was going on. Obviously there was confusion as to who [Lindros] belonged to."
"What happened was, and I didn't know this at the time, but this came out in the arbitration, was that Philadelphia had been talking to Quebec and at some point had been told that 'We've got a deal once I give you Eric Lindros' number to call him.' They did give Philadelphia Eric Lindros' number. And then, subsequent to that, Pierre [Page, Nordiques GM] met with me, liked our hockey deal and said, 'OK, you've got to do this certain [money] number,' which is when I turned it over to [Rangers owner] Stanley Jaffe. And Stanley and Marcel talked. I don't know if that was the night before or the morning of [the draft], but we had no idea what was going on other than we were trying to make the deal. They had not confirmed to us that the deal was done. I was at the draft not knowing if the deal was done."
"We had a meeting at some point and Gil Stein ... there was a list of NHL arbitrators and he suggested Bertuzzi and nobody had any objection to it so that's who we went with."
Larry Bertuzzi, arbitrator
"Jim Gregory called me at the cottage on Mr. Ziegler's behalf. It was a Saturday afternoon. I didn't know what they were talking about because we didn't have a TV at the cottage. But it sounded fairly exciting and it sounded extremely intimidating because I had never really done something like that before, but I felt I had all the tools to do it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK