In 1998, ESPN the Magazine debuted with Eric Lindros, Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez, and (ha) Kordell Stewart on its cover, representing the “NEXT” generation of superstars. 15 years later, the mag’s anniversary issue has revisited the onetime Flyers star in a long profile. Much of it focuses on Lindros’s own struggle with concussions, and the way professional sports leagues and their fans have changed in their ways of addressing brain injuries. Some memorable excerpts:
Turns out Lindros married a Quebecer (this was the guy who sacrificed a year of his career just to avoid playing for the Nordiques).
In a wonderful bit of irony, somewhere inside the grand intersection of life, love and hockey, Kina, the love of his life, turns out to be a native Quebecer. It gets better. Her father, Pierre Lamarche, is an exclusively French-speaking, former Molson employee and diehard hockey fan. In other words, the one guy Lindros hoped he’d never run into after shunning the Nordiques would now be sitting across from him at every family get-together, holding a carving knife.
Seven years after the Nordiques snub, which turned an entire Province against him, his concussion problems started.
Just as our first issue was going to press, Lindros was crossing the blue line in Pittsburgh when he lost the puck in his skates, glanced down for a second and got freight-trained by Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis. In the showers after the game, a groggy Lindros didn’t recognize his surroundings and began to wonder if he had been traded.
As the effects of his injuries mounted, Philly fans and Flyers GM Bobby Clarke grew increasingly unsympathetic.
When Lindros and his parents dared to question the Flyers medical staff after the team first sent Eric to a migraine specialist in March 2000 instead of a neurologist who focused on concussions, the old-school Clarke flipped. He isolated Lindros from the team, at one point going weeks without speaking to his injured star. Then he stripped him of his captaincy.
Looking back, that’s one of the moments of his experience that irks Lindros the most and makes him worry about today’s nonmarquee players: The pressure to play, the alienation from teammates and the other mind games used to get players back on the ice — those things worked on him, in large part because he let them. “The athletes are the worst advocates for this crap by not disclosing enough,” he says. “Who wants to admit deficiencies and put that X on your back? Are you gonna take yourself out? Because now it’s who do they have in the minors to replace you? It’s a sh — y business in that regard.”
In 2011, the Flyers invited Lindros back to Philly for an alumni event at CBP, where Lindros achieved at least some measure of closure.
In pregame introductions, an apprehensive Lindros stepped onto the ice in full Flyers orange and was given a roaring, goose-bump-inducing standing ovation. At the time, with [Sidney] Crosby incapacitated with concussion-like symptoms, it felt like a much-needed moment of awakening on brain trauma in hockey and in the sports world in general. An acknowledgment of sorts — an apology, even. Lindros bowed his head and lifted his stick in the air, saluting the fans.