I’ve got to admit that I wasn’t too excited about the Winter Classic coming to Philadelphia. The New Year’s Day, outdoor hockey game is always worth catching on TV, but it is likely to be an impossible ticket. In fact, I don’t even think they’re having any kind of sale to the public. By the time the Flyers take care of their people, the Phillies season ticket holders have their lottery and everything else, all the tickets will be on the secondary market and will cost a fortune. I’ve resigned myself to watching from the couch and hoping that it doesn’t rain. I feel like the media would somehow spin that as being the fault of the fans. I guess worst case scenario is it snows and someone hits John Tortarella in the eye with an ice-ball. Someone keep an eye on Bobby Clarke…
But, a week or so ago I heard there was going to be an alumni game the day before and Eric Lindros might be coming back to suit up for the Flyers’ alumni. He was attempting to reunite his former line, The Legion of Doom, and maybe create some magic against the retired NY Rangers stiffs. It became official today that Lindros will be playing in the game, and John LeClair is going to join him. Renberg has been a little elusive apparently. He’s back in Sweden and “isn’t easy to get a hold of,” but hopefully he can round out the line and the Flyers will have a proper reunion. The news hit me with an unexpected wave of nostalgia. I think I was transported back to being a teenager for a second and I got all excited about the Alumni game like it was a big deal. I guess it is a big deal in some ways, because I hope it gives Philly the chance to give Lindros the proper send-off.
Lindros is unquestionably one of my favorite athletes of all-time. He came at the perfect time for my fandom. I was old enough to know what was happening and still young enough to cast some athletes in a mythological light. I was too young to really see Mike Schmidt’s prime and maybe even too young for Barkley’s best Philly years as well. Lindros was hands down the most dominant natural talent I’ve ever seen play for one of the city’s teams and since he left, with apologies to Allen Iverson, no one has even had a sniff. I think the years have made my Lindros memories even fonder. While some people dogged him, or turned on him because of how he left town, I think that just made me more committed. I now think I remember Lindros being better than he actually was, which is fine with me.
I remember listening to the arbitration ruling on the Lindros trade in my kitchen. We had this somewhat shoddy clock/radio that was attached to some cabinets and I don’t think we ever used it (Music in the kitchen! Or, not). Anyway, that’s where I listened to the report on whether we’d get Lindros or he’d end up in NY. The way I remember it, the decision was read aloud and it went on for several minutes. They didn’t just come out and say, “Flyers.” They laid out the whole case in this legal jargon and I was just searching for any indication that the Flyers had received a favorable decision. When it was official, I couldn’t be happier, and I certainly didn’t give a damn about Peter Forsberg.
And, I still don’t give a damn about Peter Forsberg to be honest with you. He might have won Cups in Colorado and he may have been a brilliant player in his own right, but I’d never trade Lindros’ best years for anything–a Cup included. There’s no guarantee the Flyers would have won with Forsberg (we didn’t have Patrick Roy, after all), and Forsberg wouldn’t have gotten the FU/WACH/WF Center, etc. built. And, he wouldn’t have fit in as well in this city, and we would have missed out on peak Lindros, which was a short window, but a hell of thing to witness.
The guy is easy to criticize. He never learned how to play when he wasn’t the bully. He spent his whole life steamrolling people and when he got to the NHL–it eventually caught up to him. There’s some truth to that. One thing I always remember about Lindros is that after he scored, in the celebration–he’d often be a head taller than the rest of the guys on the ice. It was like big brother scored and then the rug rats came circling around to congratulate him. And, it was that size, that style cultivated in juniors that probably cost him the career he should have had. But, I don’t think we’ll ever see a player with his skill level be asked to also do the physical work that he did ever again either.
The concussion is a hot topic in hockey and you need no other poster boy. Lindros was equally likely to give one as he was to suffer one, especially early in his career. And, playing his early years with that target on his back he never backed down. He’d fight, he’d run you over, and then he’d score on you. The point I’m trying make is, the guy was an unbelievable hockey player. If you like Giroux, or liked Jeff Carter, or Richards or JR when he was here for a minute–these guys weren’t even in the same ballpark.
It is a shame the Flyers and the Legion of Doom never quite got it together. In that strike shortened year of 94/95 when the Legion of Doom was formed Lindros was 21, Renberg was 22, and LeClair was 25. They combined for 176 points in the 48-game regular season. Lindros had 70 in 46 games. Pretty remarkable stats, but they were rarely as healthy as they were that year after ’95, and it just never happened. But, it was great time to be a Flyers fan, and we’ll get to remember that one more time during the Alumni Game (New Year’s Eve?). That’s the one I’d like to have tickets for.