Eric Lindros was no ordinary hockey player.
He was the size of an NFL tight end who also hit like a linebacker.
Even scarier for opponents was the fact that Lindros could skate with the precision of a surgeon and score nearly at will.
After a successful run in junior-level hockey, Lindros stiff-armed the NHL team that drafted him in order to play for any organization that had a chance of being competitive.
During his career, the human tank on skates would suit up for four different franchises and play alongside some memorable teammates.
— The Hockey Samurai 侍 (@hockey_samurai) August 9, 2022
He helped one organization reach the Stanley Cup Finals before a series of injuries and concussions slowed his career.
Eventually, Lindros retired in 2007 at the age of 34 as a result of repeated head trauma.
Since retiring Lindros has been open about the dangers of concussions, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016, and named one of the NHL’s 100 greatest players in history.
This is the story of “The Next One” Eric Lindros.
Growing up Big in Canada
Eric Bryan Lindros was born on February 28, 1973, in London, Ontario, Canada.
The Lindros family relocated to Toronto when Eric was young and he began playing pee-wee hockey by the time he was 12.
Between 1985 and 1987, Lindros played for the Toronto Marlboros and Toronto Young Nationals and appeared in two Quebec Pee-Wee Hockey Tournaments.
During his days at the junior hockey level, Lindros scored buckets of points, racked up penalty minutes, and ate a lot of food, according to his host family at the time.
“Eric Lindros could slam down five peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, no problem. And his typical warm-up for a Chinese meal was five egg rolls,” Judy Vellucci said.
Lindros then found his way to the Metro Junior “B” league where he played alongside his younger brother, Brett, for the St. Michael’s Buzzers.
By this time, he was nearly 6’4” and developing a reputation for lightning-fast skating and scoring and the ability to pack a wallop.
The ‘Next One’ Eric Lindros pic.twitter.com/fXLvEg3x5f
— Mike (@rugbyplaya81) July 24, 2020
His reputation and skill development earned Lindros the nickname “The Next One” after Wayne Gretzky’s nickname “The Great One.”
“He’s just different,” Judy Vellucci said. “He’s special. He’s not like the rest of the world, truly. He’s so disciplined. So focused. Even when he was 16, he worked harder and was more dedicated than any young person I’ve ever met — in every area.”
The Sault Sainte Marie Greyhounds and team owner Phil Esposito of the Ontario Hockey League drafted Lindros in 1990 but he refused to play for the organization.
Instead of trying to force Lindros into playing for the Greyhounds, they made a trade with the Oshawa Generals before the season.
It didn’t take long for the Generals to see that they had invested wisely in dealing for Lindros.
During the next three years, he skated circles around opponents and checked several others into the boards.
Eric Lindros plays his first game for the Oshawa Generals and is credited with two assist, plus a few big hits pic.twitter.com/WkFA8btKX4
— Coots (@YaBoyCoots) April 18, 2021
From 1990-1992 Lindros had 380 points that included 180 goals and 200 assists.
His ability to lay down the law also netted Lindros an unsightly 437 penalty minutes.
It wasn’t like he couldn’t go around those who tried to slow him down.
But his 230-plus pounds almost demanded that Lindros go through people rather than around.
In 1990, Oshawa won the Robertson Cup and the Memorial Cup as junior hockey champions.
A season later, Lindros was the OHL’s top scorer, the league MVP, the Canadian Hockey League’s Player of the Year, and the CHL’s top prospect.
When he wasn’t skating for the Generals, Lindros competed in the World Junior Championships.
The 1990 Championships saw the 16-year-old Lindros get credit for four goals while also belting 16 opponents.
Team Canada won the gold medal that year as well as in 1991 when Lindros improved with six goals and 11 assists.
That same year, he won another gold medal as a member of the senior national team at the Canada Cup.
Most career points for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship
Eric Lindros (1990-1992) 31
Connor Bedard (2022-2023) 27
Jordan Eberle (2009-2010) 26
Brayden Schenn (2010-2011) 26 pic.twitter.com/RXh7rMlXsB
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) December 30, 2022
In 1992, Lindros led Team Canada with 10 points, although the group finished sixth.
As of 2020, Lindros still owned the tournament’s all-time points record with 31.
Lindros Refuses to Play for the Nordiques
During Lindros’s great 1991 season, the Quebec Nordiques held the first overall pick of the 1991 NHL Draft.
There was zero debate over who Quebec was going to take, although Lindros had other plans.
In the previous five seasons, the Nordiques were terrible.
The team had won 32 times during the 1987-88 season, and by 1989-90, the count was just 12 victories.
During the 1990-91 season, Quebec improved slightly to 16 wins.
The Nords had a talented group of young players including Joe Sakic, Ron Tugnutt, and Mats Sundin, but Lindros had no desire to play for such a hopeless franchise.
— NHL (@NHL) June 22, 2016
Years later, he would explain that his decision not to play in Quebec had nothing to do with the city or the players.
Lindros just didn’t like owner Marcel Aubut.
Long-time veteran Guy Lafleur was also a member of the Nordiques and tried to convince Lindros to join the team.
Lafleur later chronicled what “Big E” told him.
“Basically, Guy was saying to Marcel Aubut, ‘It’s not that they have anything against French people or the city. They don’t like you, Marcel,’” Lindros said in 2016.
Aubut drew a line in the sand and refused to budge.
Neither did Lindros.
Instead of reporting to Quebec, he went back to the Generals and played the 1991-92 season with Oshawa.
Lindros was also a member of Team Canada during the 1992 Olympic Games and scored four goals in eight games, helping Canada win the silver medal.
Lindros Becomes a Flyer
The Lindros/Nordiques drama wasn’t quite done yet.
By the 1992 NHL Draft, Aubut realized Lindros had no intention of playing for his team and began looking for trade partners.
Of course, there was no shortage of suitors and the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers pounced.
Both teams offered a bevy of players, draft picks, and money to entice Aubut.
Philly was ready to send two first-round selections, $15 million in cash, and a number of players that included Peter Forsberg and goalie Ron Hextall.
New York dangled several first-round picks, $20 million, and a group of players that included Tony Amonte, John Vanbiesbrouck and/or Mike Richter.
Aubut verbally agreed to the Flyers’ trade offer, then double-backed to agree with the Rangers when he felt theirs was the better deal.
The NHL had to get involved and eventually ruled that the Nordiques had to honor the Flyers’ offer because Philly had offered first.
29 years ago today, the Quebec Nordiques agreed to trade Eric Lindros, who was a year long holdout, to the #Flyers. 80 minutes later, Quebec reneged on their agreement and agreed to a deal with the Rangers. An arbitrator ruled in favor of Philadelphia 10 days later. pic.twitter.com/gN4ejQotcM
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) June 20, 2021
Lindros was now a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, though that didn’t sit well with Hextall.
“We were settled in Philly, I loved the Flyers, I could never imagine playing for another team,” recalled Hextall in 2016. “Now all of a sudden you get a phone call to say you’ve been traded. It was difficult. It was hard for me emotionally. I had young kids [6, 4, 1]. It was tough.”
Eventually, Hextall was traded back to the Flyers before the 1994-95 season and he became a fan of Lindros.
“I was mad as hell at Eric. Until I got traded back two years later,” said Hextall, laughing. “Then I thought, ‘This wasn’t so bad after all.’ When I got back to Philly and now I’m playing with Eric, then I thought he was more than OK.”
Good as Expected
As he was reporting to Philly, the rest of the NHL knew what the Flyers were getting in the 6’4, 240-pound Lindros.
“Everybody wants one of those players,” said Bob Clarke, the former general manager of the Flyers, “but they don’t come along very often.”
Even “The Great One” himself, Gretzky, was aware of what Lindros meant to the game of hockey.
“He changed the game,” Gretzky said. “When Eric came in, he was that new physical power forward that happened to have really good hands.”
The Flyers had been regular Stanley Cup contenders in the 1980s but had fallen on rough times when Lindros arrived.
One year prior, Philly had won 32 games and Lindros’s rookie year of 1992-93 brought just 36 victories.
Mark Recci and Rod Brind’Amour were part of the organization, but there wasn’t much else to write home about, except for Lindros, of course.
That season, he banged home 41 goals and 34 assists for 75 total points.
In 1993-94, Lindros continued to stun opponents with his stick handling, including a deadly backhand, that tallied 44 goals along with 53 assists for 97 points.
— Southpaw (@4thlineVoice) December 16, 2018
Then, in 1994, he was named captain of the Flyers and picked up 70 total points and the Hart Trophy as league MVP while Philly returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1988-89.
During the run to the Cup, the Flyers advanced to the Conference Finals before losing to the New Jersey Devils.
“Legion of Doom”
In February of 1995, Clarke, who was now the Flyers general manager, made a trade with Montreal for left wing John LeClair.
Sensing an opportunity, coach Terry Murray sandwiched Lindros between LeClair and right-wing Mikael Renberg.
The result was magic.
— The Hockey Samurai 侍 (@hockey_samurai) July 5, 2022
During the trios’ first game together, the Flyers won and a nickname was born.
“They look like the Legion of Doom out there,” Flyers center Jim Montgomery said after the game.
The moniker stuck and the Legion of Doom line created magnificent opportunities for Philly.
Not only did they score a plethora of goals, but they lowered the hammer on a number of opponents, racking up penalty minutes in the process.
“We played similar styles,” Lindros said. “We enjoyed coming to practice. We had a lot of fun at practice together, and I think that really paid off in terms of what happened on the ice during games. I think there was a direct correlation to that. You’ve got a group of guys that truly enjoy coming in in the morning and being around each other all the time, you’re going to have much better success.”
Lindros had a career-high 155 points (including a career-best 47 goals) in 1995-96 then 79 in 1996-97 when the franchise returned to play in the Stanley Cup finals.
@BigDrewandJim Eric Lindros. He was supposed to be the next great one in hockey. Then Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings broke his soul in 1997. And then injuries broke his body. pic.twitter.com/JKHLxin7Wt
— Josh Van Dam (@joshvandam) July 2, 2019
During the playoffs, Lindros had 26 points to pace the Flyers.
However, during the Finals, Detroit overpowered Lindros and company and swept Philly in four games.
Concussions Take their Toll
By 1999-2000, Renberg had long since been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, breaking up the Legion of Doom line.
Lindros, however, kept up his steady point totals that reached 93 in 1998-99.
Along with his points, Lindros had also started to rack up a steady number of concussions.
— ActualSportsNews-com (@actualsportsnew) February 15, 2016
Head injuries had already chased Brett Lindros from the game in May of 1996.
Eric Lindros had sustained his second concussion of the season in March of that year and both he and his parents had complained about the way the Flyers’ training staff handled his injuries.
That got him stripped of his captain standing by Clarke and Lindros stayed out of the lineup through the end of the regular season.
While rehabbing to return for the Flyers’ playoff run, Lindros again sustained another concussion.
He finally returned to play in Game 6 of the Conference Finals against New Jersey and scored a goal in the 2-1 loss.
In Game 7, Lindros snagged the puck and was headed toward the Devils’ goal with a head of steam.
#NeverForget Scott Stevens making his presence felt Eric Lindros never the same after this Playoff hit… PHYSICAL PLAYOFFS!!!
Devils down 3-1 in series when this happened ' won series afterpic.twitter.com/Ybi8YYbufE
— IB THE GAMBLER 🔌 (@incarceratedbob) April 18, 2018
New Jersey captain Scott Stevens caught up to Lindros and laid him out with a devastating hit.
“It’s an important time and the way Eric played in his first game back (on Wednesday, Game 6), he was their best player, which is unbelievable being off 10 weeks,” Stevens said. “Coming into Game 7, I’m thinking there is one player on that team that can win that game and it could have been him.”
Lindros was helped off the ice with his fifth concussion of the year.
Stevens later felt bad about the incident.
“It’s very hard, it’s tough,” Stevens said. “It’s something I don’t like to think about and I try to put it behind me and go on.”
The Flyers lost to the Devils in seven games and Lindros would not suit up for Philly again.
Trade to New York
Lindros was a free agent after the 99-00 season and a deal to re-sign with Philly and another with the Toronto Maple Leafs never materialized.
As a result, Lindros sat out for the entire 2000-2001 season.
In August of 2001, Clarke traded him to the New York Rangers for a number of players and a draft choice.
Eric Lindros and Jaromir Jagr. pic.twitter.com/nG3uyB25YG
— RandomRangers (@rangers_random) May 6, 2019
He had 37 goals and 73 points in his first year with the Rangers in 2001-2002.
Lindros then donned the jersey of Team Canada again for the 2002 Winter Olympics and helped the team win gold for the first time in 50 years.
Between 2002-2004, Lindros played two more years in the Big Apple and had 85 total points.
Lindros and the entire NHL sat home in 2004-2005 due to the league’s labor dispute and he was not re-signed by New York for the 2005-2006 season.
The Maple Leafs picked him up for one year and $1.55 million and he played in 33 games in ‘05-06 resulting in 22 points.
In 2006-2007, Lindros signed with the Dallas Stars and played in 49 games.
— Legends In The Wrong Uniforms (@WrongUnis) March 16, 2022
However, he was a shell of his former self with opponents now making it a point to check Big E whenever they had the opportunity.
“I moved to wing and just didn’t have the confidence to cut through the middle of the ice anymore,” Lindros said in 2017. “I felt vulnerable. I didn’t want to get hit the same way I got hit the past.”
He had 26 points and saw the playoffs for the first time since he was a Flyer.
After the season, Lindros decided that his health was more important than money and retired at the age of 34.
During his career, Lindros had 372 goals, 493 assists, and 865 total points.
He was a Hart Trophy winner once and played in the Stanley Cup Finals once.
Along the way, Lindros became the poster child for big kids who wanted to play hockey.
“He really revolutionized the power forward of the modern era,” said Mark Messier. “He was a guy, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, who could skate and had the agility of a guy 5-9, 180 pounds. On top of that, with the skill and a mean streak, he really epitomized what a power forward was and was going to be leading into the next era of hockey players.”
Life Since Retiring
Shortly after retiring, Lindros was hired to be an ombudsman to hear and resolve complaints for the NHL Players Association.
He held the position for two years and then got involved in Habitat for Humanity and other worthy causes.
Lindros spoke out about the dangers of concussions and the toll they take on the mind and body of an athlete.
Eventually, the NHL took his words to heart and began fining players for headshots as well as creating a department to oversee player safety.
“Because of what happened to Eric Lindros, the N.H.L. got a lot more serious about concussions,” said Clarke in 2016.
In 2013, Lindros was adamant about the signing of Rowan’s Law, named after Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old rugby player who died after sustaining three concussions in less than a week.
Eric Lindros, who suffered from concussions, supporting MPP Lisa MacLeod's bill "Rowan's Law" on concussion protocol pic.twitter.com/OMN2i762cI
— Jane Taber (@JaneTaber1) April 6, 2016
The law, a checklist of the causes and effects of repeated concussions for trainers and doctors to consult before allowing an athlete to return to action, was passed three years later.
“Eric became, for many us, a real part of Rowan’s team, and he took this awareness to another level,” Lisa MacLeod, a provincial lawmaker in Ontario said. “We are now the first jurisdiction in Canada with legislation dealing with concussions.”
After years of coming up short, Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.
“He had it all: size, strength and finesse, It is unfortunate injuries cut his time in the NHL short, but he had a great career and left his mark on the game,” said former teammate, LeClair.
Lindros and his wife, Kina, have three children and they have left playing the game of hockey up to their kids.
“Concussions are going to happen in sports and elsewhere, so don’t put your kids on the couch,” Lindros said. “Let’s work with making them better and getting them back to their regular life.”