Eric Lindros could have been the greatest hockey player of all time. The expectations for 88 were off the charts when he entered the NHL — a level of hype beyond that of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, combined — and while his career never quite turned out the way Flyers fans had hoped, there were a few seasons in the mid 1990s where Lindros was as good as the NHL had ever seen. Injuries (and off-the-ice nonsense) kept Lindros from becoming an all-time great in Philly sports history — his time with the New York Rangers probably didn’t help — but his career was still really good, and certainly Hall of Fame worthy.
Monday night, Lindros finally got his Hall of Fame moment, and took the opportunity to not only reflect on his career, but also on his family, ending his speech by calling up his brother, Brett, to share the stage with him.
“Brett played in the Island and we always had a dream of playing together,” Lindros said as his brother walked to the stage. “Unfortunately it didn’t come through, but I would like to close this chapter of my life with you beside me.”
The elder Lindros brother played 760 games in the NHL from the time he was 19 until age 33, leaving the game 10 years ago. He scored 372 goals and had 493 assists in his time in the NHL, including 290 goals and 369 assists with the Flyers. Both Lindros brothers struggled with concussions, and a strong case can be made that the measures the NHL takes today with regard to head injuries, equipment advancement and player safety are because of the duo. Brett, like Eric, entered the NHL at 19 years old, but played just 51 games over two seasons for the Islanders before retiring because of repeated concussions.
Brett Lindross quit hockey in 1996, concerned that his head trauma would cause “the possibility of blindness as well as permanent brain damage.”
“What was scary for me was each time it took longer to resolve,” Lindros said at the time of his retirement, according to the New York Times. “My last concussion before my 20th birthday took eight or nine weeks. Sometimes I had memory loss on the bench.”
Concussions were a huge part of the story for both brothers, and a part of the conversation again this week. Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports wrote this of Eric’s induction to the Hall of Fame:
The only reason we have to make those arguments for Lindros is because he only played 760 games, and the last 202 of them were played by a Lindros-shaped cicada shell that had been bludgeoned into timidity about cutting across the middle of the ice.
Concussions ended him. But as we’ve seen as Lindros has made the rounds this weekend in the hockey media, concussions also define him.
Inviting Brett to be a part of the Hall of Fame ceremony was a touching moment for the two, and a remembrance of an issue that, going on more than a decade later, is still an enormous concern in the NHL, and all professional sports.