Wip Lash Fighting Back Flyers Drop Gloves On Station Sue Wip Over Carton's Report On Lindros

Posted: March 06, 1997

The CoreStates Center is only seven months old; it hasn't seen all that many strange sights. But the building might be older than Independence Hall before it sees anything to match last night.

Ed Snider, the Flyers' chairman, stood at a lectern before the game and denounced WIP, the radio station that airs his team's games, the station that went to a sports-talk format under his ownership before he sold it in 1992. Excerpts from Snider's remarks were later broadcast between periods on the scoreboard video screen, drawing cheers as loud as the boos elicted by the WIP logo, displayed on the very same screen once each period, as mandated by the team's contract with the station.

Snider said his team was suing WIP and host Craig Carton for libel, over a report aired Friday that alleged team captain Eric Lindros missed a Feb. 15 game against Pittsburgh because he was suspended for being hung over. Lindros actually missed games Feb. 15 and 16, with a lower back strain, the Flyers said.

The suit, which did not specify damages, was filed against Infinity Broadcasting Corp., the AM station and Carton.

Snider and team president and general manager Bob Clarke also said the team will attempt to buy its way out of the contract with WIP, which has one year to run.

Rob Charry, who handles news updates and serves as a talk-show host at WIP, answered a call from the Daily News and said the station had no official comment. Early in his 6 p.m. show, host Howard Eskin read a statement apparently directed to the on-air talent that said, ``It is the station's policy not to comment on matters of litigation.''

Carton did not return a phone call from the Daily News to the station.

Asked why he took these actions now, and not last May, when WIP alleged a Lindros friendship with reputed mobster Joey Merlino, Snider answered with passion: ``Because this is one step too many. They finally went over the ledge. We were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt last time, but we're not willing to do it any longer. We're not going to sit back and take it. We understand that they have the power of the airwaves, but we have the power of our integrity and our pride, and we're not going to sit back and take this garbage.''

Clarke said the action was necessary to show that the Flyers stand up for their players.

``If management and ownership won't support their players, then you don't really have a team, you have a bunch of people playing hockey,'' Clarke said. ``It happens to be Eric this time, but if it was any other player, we'd do the same.''

Of course, by filing suit and holding a press conference - attended by media representatives from the New York area and Toronto covering last night's game - the Flyers turned a local dispute into an international story.

``I don't think there's any way of making a stand without doing it like that,'' Clarke said later.

Snider alluded to possible further legal action by Lindros. Eric's father, Carl, said he would travel today from Toronto to Philadelphia with that agenda.

``That's very real, but it's premature for me to comment,'' Carl Lindros said. ``We're pleased that the Flyers have taken action on this. There's something wrong. It needs to be fixed.''

Eric Lindros, who sat out last night with a charley horse on his right thigh, issued a statement through the Flyers that said: ``It's unfortunate that this situation has gotten to this point. All I can say is that the allegations they've made are simply not true. I am pursuing my options legally. For the time being, that's all I have to say.''

Earlier in the day, at the Flyers' morning skate, a reporter asked Lindros how he'd been doing.

``Well, I went to see [the movie] `Donnie Brasco' last night,'' Lindros said. ``I took along two alibi witnesses.''

Clearly, the controversy has upset Lindros. This summer, the Flyers must try to negotiate a new contract with their superstar, as he moves toward the final season of his original six-year pact. The Flyers are concerned that what their press release called ``a pattern of reckless sensationalism'' by WIP will sour Lindros on Philadelphia.

``Eric . . . is representing this team and this city pretty well, and doing a heck of a job. To get the kind of treatment is a disgrace,'' Snider said.

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