By Patrick Powell
2000 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7. The very mention of the game creates an uneasy feeling in the minds of Flyers’ fans. Not only did the Flyers miss an opportunity to go to the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars, but then maligned superstar, Eric Lindros, suffered a concussion on a questionable (but deemed legal by the on-ice officials) hit by Devils’ defenseman Scott Stevens. Following a messy divorce filled with lawsuits and mudslinging from the Lindros camp as well as from the Flyers’ staff, particularly then General Manager, Bob Clarke, the Philadelphia faithful took sides. Some fans believed that Clarke and the Flyers rushed Lindros back too quickly from prior concussions, and their medical staff was negligent, as alleged by Lindros and his father/agent, Carl Lindros. Others questioned Lindros’ manhood and maturity. Battle lines were drawn, and the conflict wages to this day. For Flyers’ fans, the side taken in that debate typically coincides with a Flyers’ fan’s position of whether or not Lindros should be elected in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On September 27, 2008, the Flyers held an event to commemorate the closing of The Spectrum, the arena where Lindros played his home games at the outset of his career with the Flyers. The Flyers had invited all prior captains to attend the ceremony. Lindros was a conspicuous absence, but he did send a video in which he explained that he would be unable to attend due to the passing of the mother of a friend. Some Flyers’ fans questioned Lindros’ sincerity in the video and speculated that the relationship with the Flyers was still icy.
On October 17, 2011, the first step of the reconciliation between Lindros, the Flyers, and the Flyers’ faithful happened. The Hockey Guys’ Justin Johnson reported that Lindros had been asked by Flyers’ current General Manager, Paul Holmgren, to attend the Alumni Winter Classic on December 31st, and that Lindros was leaning towards accepting the invitation.
Shortly thereafter, Lindros made his intentions clear in a radio interview with 590 The Fan in Toronto, “Paul Holmgren gave me a shout about a month and a half ago, and we talked back and forth for a bit, and I was real happy to hear his voice and get the invitation. I told him a while back that I would fly down and have some fun.” Holmgren echoed the positive sentiments in a recent interview with ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, “Eric had a tremendous career for the Flyers. I’m looking forward to seeing Eric and a lot of these other guys. It’s going to be nice.”
Lindros’ pleasantries continued as he praised the Flyers’ faithful to LeBrun, “The fans in Philly are great. They’re real supportive; they know the game and they’re passionate about it. I played in four cities. Toronto is obviously right up there in terms of intensity, but Philly is there, too. That’s a great sports town.” Lindros has been practicing with a stick adorned with a picture of the Philadelphia skyline, and fans have been cheering him.
While in Philadelphia, Lindros and former “Legion of Doom” linemate, John LeClair, have volunteered their time at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The status of the third member of the trio, Mikael Renberg, is still in doubt. Renberg has obligations as color commentator for Team Sweden for the World Junior Championship, which is in progress in Alberta, Canada. Holmgren apprised LeBrun that Renberg would do his best to hop a flight to Philadelphia to play in the game, but he has not received an update from Renberg.
Despite the positive atmosphere that Lindros has been helping to create, the chilly relationship still clearly exists between Clarke and Lindros. Clarke had commented to ESPN.com on October 27th that he still took umbrage with the interference from Lindros’ parents. Lindros fired back the same day, defending how his representation, which just happened to be his parents, always prioritized his best interests. The two talked at practice on Friday, but there is no report of what was discussed.
Hopefully, Lindros and Clarke can reach a détente. The issue of the handling of concussions is certainly quite serious, as fans have witnessed this season. Lindros has offered advice and stories of his own recovery, and he will continue to support the NHL in its quest to treat concussions more appropriately.
The fans should be honored that Lindros has decided to don the orange and black again. If the reaction at the practice sessions is any indication, Lindros just may receive the loudest cheers from the Flyers’ faithful at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.
Shamless self-plug: I will be attending Saturday’s Alumni Classic, and I will be reporting on the fans’ perspective of the game.