Here’s Eric Lindros’ $250K Libel Suit Against Ex-Ref
In a column in the Huffington Post last July, former NHL referee Paul Stewart wrote of his run-ins with Eric Lindros. Now, Lindros is suing him for $250,000 — Canadian.
The defamation suit, filed in an Ontario court, alleges several stories in Stewart’s column about Lindros are false. The statement of claim says the stories, which did not paint Lindros in a positive light, would cause “reasonable and ordinary readers of the article [to] regard Lindros with contempt or ridicule.”
“He gives a lot of time to charity,” said Geoff Shaw, one of Lindros’ lawyers in the suit. “He donated $5 million to a hospital in Ontario, He raises money for Easter Seals. I know he does events in your neck of the woods as well. He says, ‘My reputation is important to me when I’m giving this time.'”
After a playing career that included stints in the WHA and NHL, Stewart worked as a referee in the NHL from 1986 to 2003. His July 16th story contains numerous anecdotes of run-ins with fans and players during his time as a ref. The one about Lindros was from a February 14, 1993, game at The Spectrum against the Devils. It was Lindros’ rookie year with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Eric Lindros was a player I got off with on the wrong foot and we never developed a rapport because neither he nor I wanted one. […] I made small talk with several of the Devils and Flyers on the ice. I said hello to Mark Recchi and talked to Bernie Nicholls. I then tried to greet the 19-year-old rookie Lindros.
“Hey, Eric. How are things going? How’s your dad?” I asked.
The response: “[Bleep] you. Just drop the [bleeping] puck already.”
Stewart writes he called an early penalty on Lindros, and decided he “wasn’t going to give him a break on anything borderline that I might have let slide with a player who had gained acceptability with me.” The repercussions came postgame, per Stewart’s story:
Before the game, I had brought a tube filled with posters to Flyers’ equipment manager Jim “Turk” Evers. The posters, which depicted [Mark] Recchi and Lindros, were to be autographed and then donated to a charity auction. I had done a similar thing in other cities, such as a Cam Neely and Ray Bourque poster in Boston, and a Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh.
After the game, I want to Turk to collect the poster tube. “Stewy, you’re not going to like this,” Evers said. “I don’t have them.”
“What do you mean you don’t have them?” I asked.
“Well, Rex signed the posters but when Eric found out they were for you, he tore every one of them up. I’m sorry about that.” I never spoke to Eric Lindros again.
Lindros says all of Stewart’s anecdotes about him in the suit are false. His attorneys write that the stories make Lindros appear to be the following:
- “unfriendly or hostile”
- “unfriendly, hostile, rude and insulting”
- “unfriendly, hostile, rude, insulting, vindictive, cruel, uncharitable and generally a despicable person”
Obviously, Eric Lindros — who played in Philly from 1992 to 2000 — doesn’t want to be seen as these things. As evidence that his reputation was damaged, the lawsuit notes a Deadspin story headlined “A Funny Story About Then-Rookie Eric Lindros Being A Huge Dickhead” as well as articles penned by writers named Donut King and Smitty. It also links to a Philly.com story headlined, “Former NHL ref tells cute story about teenage Eric Lindros.”
“The libellous content of the article and Lindros’ role as a public figure made the article likely to attract a significant amount of public attention and interest,” the complaint continues. “The aggravated damages suffered by the plaintiff as a consequence were caused by and are the responsibility of the defendants.”
One of Stewart’s claims has been challenged before. Turk Evers, the trainer in the story, went on The Preston and Steve Show on WMMR and said Stewart’s story has “got to be fabricated because I would never — I’ve never even talked to him.”
“I’ve been with [Lindros] out at restaurants, out at different functions over the years and everything, when he played with the Rangers, when he got traded from here — he would never do anything like this, gentlemen,” he said on WMMR. “And to my recollection he never gave me any posters and even if he did Eric would sign them.”
Stewart was a defenseman on Penn’s ice hockey team from 1972 to 1975. A message left for him wasn’t returned. “I have games to go to, other issues to deal with, and in particular cases like this, the truth is always your shield,” Stewart told NJ.com from Moscow, where he is vice chairman of officiating for the Kontinental Hockey League.
TSN first reported the lawsuit. Lindros is also suing the Huffington Post, AOL and AOL Canada. AOL owns the Huffington Post.
Read Lindros’ amended claim below.
Follow @dhm on Twitter.