5 Takeaways From The Hockey News’ Story on Eric Lindros

Eric Lindros has been retired for almost a decade. He talked with The Hockey News about concussions, his chances at the Hall of Fame and, of course, Costco.

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Today, The Hockey NewsKen Campbell published a long profile on Eric Lindros. It’s a story about how Lindros, who was a Flyer from 1992 to 2001, is at peace with his career despite how tumultuous it was: He was the best player in the world for a few years, but he feuded with Flyers management, never won a Stanley Cup and somehow was even linked to Joey Merlino.

(Last year, I wrote about a libel lawsuit Lindros filed against former NHL referee Paul Stewart and The Huffington Post over a column Stewart wrote for the site.)

Campbell’s story is also about how Lindros was a driving force for player safety in the NHL, how he continues to fight now for concussion awareness and how he’s trying to raise money for Dr. Arthur Brown’s research into a way that could prevent the damage caused by concussions.

Here are five takeaways from The Hockey News’ story.

1. Concussions changed the way Lindros played

Eric Lindros suffered a concussion on March 7th, 1998, on a hit by Darius Kasparaitis. He suffered another one in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, a 2-1 Flyers loss to the New Jersey Devils, when Scott Stevens hit him over the middle. In between, he suffered four additional concussions. The aftermath of the six concussions took a toll on his career.

“I hated going through the middle,” Lindros told Campbell. “I had huge fears. It’s tough going from being so assertive – you never show any cracks – to having an ‘X’ on your back. Players who would have never spoken or taken liberties in the past, it was happening all the time. I had a fear of cutting through the middle. Absolutely. Could I still shoot and pass? I could still score, but it wasn’t the same game.”

2. Lindros is attempting to help hockey deal with concussions

That big hit on Lindros by Scott Stevens in 2000 would draw a penalty now, but the fight against concussions in the sport is not over. Lindros is trying to help. He’s the honorary chair of See The Line, a concussion research effort, and is attempting to get funds for the research of Dr. Arthur Brown.

Brown needs millions for human testing on what he says is a revolutionary way to treat concussions. “When a person receives a cut, white blood cells rush in to close the gap and form a scab so the healing can take place,” Campbell writes. “When an injury occurs in the brain, though, there isn’t room for that kind of expansion, which is what causes headaches and compression. Dr. Brown has come up with a way to manipulate white blood cells so this doesn’t happen and use them to rejuvenate the nerve damage that has occurred in the stems.”

Lindros got the NHL Players Association to donate half a million dollars and has spearheaded $300,000 in other donations. Brown is still $2.35 million short of his goal.

3. Lindros was right in his battles with the Flyers over injuries.

Hockey treats concussions more seriously now. While Lindros was doing what is now expected of players — looking for second opinions on their own, prioritizing their own health first — then-Flyers GM Bobby Clarke battled publicly and privately with Lindros and his father, Carl, over his absences from the lineup.

“Lindros’ handling of his injury and his insistence on not playing until he felt he was healthy are the kinds of things players are encouraged to do now,” Campbell writes. “They’re supposed to gather all the information they can, they’re free to get their own independent opinions, and they’re urged not to forsake their lives to keep playing when they shouldn’t. Suddenly, Lindros doesn’t look so obstinate.”

(Greg Wyshynski, of Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog, has a slightly different take, saying it was Lindros’ style of play that led to his many concussions. He often went through the middle with his head down. “At running the risk of victim blaming, Lindros has a certain culpability for the injuries he suffered,” Wyshynski writes. “No, it’s not an era the NHL is ever going to revisit, thanks to what we know now. But it’s the era he played in, and he knew what hits were being delivered.”)

4. Lindros probably deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

From the perspective of a Flyers fan, of course he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. So does every Flyer who was even halfway decent, from Trent Klatt to Kjell Samuelsson! But even taking it objectively, Lindros was one of the top players in the game for much of the 90s, and won the 1995 Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP.

“His career and that of Hall of Famer Cam Neely are almost mirror images, with the exception that as good as Neely was, he was never considered the best player in the game at any time during his career,” Campbell writes. “In terms of the combination of pure power and skill, Lindros is without peer in the history of the game.”

5. He’s really excited about a Costco opening up near his home.

This is the best detail in the entire piece.

There’s something decidedly different about ‘The Big E’ these days. He speaks excitedly about how a Costco is coming soon to his neighborhood, because that means he doesn’t have to go across town anymore. He talks about how much better Pampers are at absorbing wetness than Huggies. And he strongly suggests never buying the bulk batteries at Costco because it’s impossible to get through the enormous package before they die out.

Lindros made a lot of money playing professional hockey, and has a comfortable living after retiring from the NHL. He doesn’t need to do advertisements for money. But the world needs him as a Costco pitchman. Or even Pampers! Could you imagine turing on the TV and seeing Eric Lindros shilling for diapers? I don’t have a kid and I’d buy a pack.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.