TORONTO (AP) Eric Lindros carved an unprecedented path to hockey stardom, including where the incoming Hall of Famer lived when he entered the NHL.
It was about a month into Lindros’ rookie season with the Philadelphia Flyers that the prodigy asked to move in with veteran teammate Kevin Dineen and his newlywed wife, Annie.
“And I was like, `Ah, let me go home and talk to my wife about that,”‘ Dineen recalled almost 25 years later.
Lindros had already bought a townhouse with “everything you could ever want,” but he was also a teenager in an unforgiving American city. Dineen figures he was probably a little bit lonely.
So Lindros spent two years in the Dineens’ home, flush with dogs and a growing, makeshift family. The unlikely unit ate breakfast and dinner together, and sometimes Lindros and Dineen sneaked into classes at the University of Pennsylvania, where Annie was working toward her master’s degree.
“It was funny in a lot of ways,” Dineen said. “It was like having a little brother who was much bigger than you.”
Finally entering the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov and the late Pat Quinn, Lindros had an incomparable career on and off the ice. He was a maverick in a sport of rigid rules and a talent on the ice not seen before or since.
“He was probably the most dominant player during his time in the NHL,” longtime teammate Rod Brind’Amour said.
At 6-foot-4 and more than 200 pounds, Lindros was like a freight train on skates, but with the agility and skills to move like a race car.
Brind’Amour still remembers hopelessly trying to defend Lindros at his first practice with the Flyers in 1992. Lindros had one hand on his stick as he rushed down the wing but still somehow whipped a wrist shot into the top corner.
“And I’m like, nobody can do that in the NHL,” Brind’Amour said. “And of course, if he wanted to run you over, he could run you through the boards. And then if you wanted to fight, he could fight. There was just nothing that he couldn’t really do. And that was impressive because there wasn’t really anyone in the NHL that could do everything.”
Dineen believes Lindros should be remembered as a progressive force. The hockey world could have its opinions, but Lindros stood by his best interests.
“He gets painted a little bit with the ugly brush because of the stands he took,” said Dineen, now a Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach.
Lindros twice refused to play for the team that drafted him No. 1 overall. He famously spurned the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques in 1991, later saying he didn’t want to play for owner Marcel Aubut, and that came two years after he declined to play for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League – the club eventually to traded him to Oshawa.
Lindros sat out the 2000-01 season waiting for a trade out of Philadelphia following a bitter public spat with general manager Bobby Clarke regarding the treatment of Lindros’ injuries, including multiple concussions. Compare that to the handling of current stars like Sidney Crosby, whose concussions have been handled by the Penguins with caution.
“It’s not like you’re looking to go upstream,” Lindros said. “The choices that I made were choices that other people had done before me. It wasn’t like it was fresh territory.”
Perhaps not on a case-by-case basis, but the entirety of Lindros’ off-ice drama is unprecedented among NHL superstars.
And still, his career will be defined as much by what it wasn’t as what it was.
Injuries limited him to fewer than 800 regular season games and retirement at age 34. He has some of the finest seasons ever in the league on his resume, but no longevity to go with it. And of course, Lindros also lacks a precious Stanley Cup title.
What could his career have been with good health? Brind’Amour thinks Lindros’ brute, physical style likely would have degraded his productivity with time.
Regardless, the powerful Lindros made a dent on the sport. His dominance and distinctiveness can’t be denied.
“He’s one in a lifetime,” Brind’Amour said. “I don’t know if you’ll ever see a player like him because the game’s changed so much now. The physical part of the game is kind of out the door. No kids growing up are trying to be like that. It’s all skill and skating, so I don’t know that you’re going to see that kind of player again.”