Part 4: Lindros debuts for Flyers as villain in Quebec
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.
"The excitement [in Philadelphia] was great. Even the press -- there were questions for us about everything we gave up, but basically the media was very positive about it. It was an exciting time in Philly. I don't remember any real criticism. I remember it was a pretty good time."
"I remember asking [Lindros] when we broke off into one-on-ones, I gave him his contract terms, and said, 'How are you going to live up to that? Having never played in the NHL, having never played a game, how do you justify or earn that money?' And he said, 'Don't worry, I'll earn it -- every penny.'"
"Lindros jerseys were second [in sales] in the NHL. Only [Mario] Lemieux jerseys had sold more. It was that level of impact. That whole issue with the financing on that new building [Wells Fargo Center], the problems they had getting financing, all that solved itself and we moved ahead. I don't know what impact the Lindros trade had in that but I know it was significant."
'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 ›
"That day of the press conference there were cards, I don't know if it was Fleer, but it was hockey cards with Lindros and he had a Flyers jersey on and they were being passed out at that press conference. I took one and put it in my notebook, never thought much of it. About a week later, maybe even less, I got a phone call from someone and the person said to me, 'I'll give you 500 bucks for that card.' I remember thinking, 500 bucks, at the time I really could have used it. We had little kids, were trying to scrape by. I thought, 'Wow, 500 bucks, I could really take that. If he's willing to give me 500 bucks and this guy is a Hall of Famer, this could be worth something. What if he turns out to be the best player in the history of hockey?' So of course I held on to it. I don't know where it is now but I'm sure it's not worth $5."
"I handled all the negations for that building [Wells Fargo Center] with the state and the city -- all the contracts and everything else, the first two-and-a-half years of the development of that project. I would tell you that the interest in premium seats and tickets and everything was tremendous. Our phones were ringing off the hook. In my mind, financially, bringing Eric Lindros to Philadelphia was a winner. No doubt. We sold suites, we sold club seats, we sold advertising, we sold tickets, because of Eric Lindros."
"I remember the first training camp he had was in Prince Edward Island and we went there to cover that. I remember going to the rink there and it was packed, so much energy for training camp."
"We had committed and done the deal [to go to Prince Edward Island] prior to [the trade]. That was the windfall for them. They wanted to bring the team and they were prepared ... they paid some of our expense to go there. We thought it would be a unique experience, so we committed to it. We had the arrangement in place and then the whole Lindros thing unfolded. All of a sudden we were bringing the hottest commodity in the NHL to PEI. It was quite a windfall for them."
"For me, it was all the hype was right. It was like, 'Wow, this is definitely, this guy's the real deal,' with the size and the strength that he had, the power that he played with. For me it was the most dominant player physically that I had seen to that point."
"You can technically call him a power forward that could do things like most anybody could do. He could do things more than that. He was a big guy that could skate, that could shoot, that could pass, he could be physical when he needed to be. When you get a package of a person that big and who can do all those things, it's something special."
"Bob Clarke made the comment, he just couldn't believe, he kept raving, you could hear Lindros coming. He had never seen a hockey player, he's 240 pounds, just bearing down on people on the forecheck and stuff. He said he'd never seen a hockey player where you could hear him coming behind you."
THE 'BABY' ARRIVES IN QUEBEC CITY
"I'll never forget that first game Eric Lindros played in Quebec. They played in Quebec but he did not go to that preseason game. They played a regular-season game and he went to that game and I went to that game and it was just … it was the most bizarre NHL scene I had ever seen, with pacifiers all over the ice. I saw some signs in the stands that I could never repeat."
"He was a big guy that could skate, that could shoot, that could pass, he could be physical when he needed to be. When you get a package of a person that big and who can do all those things, it's something special."
-- Flyers teammate Mark Recchi
"Out in warm-ups and batteries are flying all over the place. It was crazy to me. People were throwing batteries at him and everyone was trying to stay away from him. It was like, 'What are we going to do? We're out here. We don't want to get hit by shrapnel.' It was brutal."
"We were worried, but they had him pretty well-protected, the organization did, the arena. But you always get people who want to do something stupid."
"There's been a lot of situations like that [but] this was different because I don't think there's ever been a situation where it's one guy. You're always the hated team. That's interesting and all that. But when you know it's one guy that everybody has just massive hatred for and he's your teammate, it was kind of a surreal thing."
"We loved it. For him to go there and after everything to go there and score a couple goals, that's every player's wish. Just to go out there and do good things, especially in an environment like he did. He went and played a great game (won by Quebec 6-3)."
"Early on there was no problem at all. Eric was a real mature guy. He was smart beyond his years. He picked up every tab and he did a lot of things that really experienced players did. He handled himself very well. I was only there two years with him, and then I was gone. I understand later on there were some other problems. But when I was there and he was there as a young kid, he got along fine."
"It looked good right off the bat. It would have been nice if he had a 20-year career and ended up at that lofty level that we projected. He was there at times and showed that potential but for whatever reason he never quite sustained that level."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK