Suit Pulls Flyers, Lindros Together

Posted: March 07, 1997

Whether or not the Flyers win their libel suit against WIP (610-AM) and host Craig Carton, they have accomplished something.

Taking on the station publicly, standing up for team captain Eric Lindros, has certainly closed any gap that might have existed between the organization and No. 88, who will be working on a new contract with the Flyers this summer as he approaches the final season of his original six-year deal.

Lindros emerged after yesterday's practice to tell reporters he was ``feeling a lot better today.'' He had been asked about the bruise on his hip that kept him out of Wednesday's 3-1 loss to New Jersey, but he might have been talking about more than that.

Lindros said he couldn't ``discuss anything'' about the suit or the plans he and his father and agent, Carl, might have for further legal action over Carton's report, aired last Friday, that maintained Lindros was held out of a Feb. 15 game against Pittsburgh because he had a hangover. Lindros actually missed games Feb. 15 and 16 - with a lower back strain, the team said.

When asked how he thought the furor might affect his teammates - they have been asked by management not to comment - Lindros spoke in a low, emotional voice.

He recalled team president and general manager Bob Clarke's words during Wednesday's pregame press conference, when Clarke said: ``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. It happens to be Eric this time, but if it was any other player, we'd do the same.''

Lindros said that statement meant a lot to him.

``There's a strong principle there, and all the guys feel it,'' he said. ``It's too bad we're in this situation, but apparently, that's the way they [the station and Carton] want it.''

Coach Terry Murray seemed to have a similar take - that the organization was standing up for the right things, and that was the first priority.

``A guy like Eric, he plays with great passion in his game, great desire to be the best,'' Murray said. ``I don't care how old you are, or how mentally tough you are, you have feelings.''

Carl Lindros, who was to travel from Toronto to Philadelphia yesterday, could not be reached for comment, but after the press conference Wednesday night, he said: ``We all like to fight back, don't we?''

Clearly, the Lindros family wanted the spirited public defense Eric got from Flyers chairman Ed Snider and from Clarke Wednesday night.

That wasn't the only reason for the Flyers' reaction - there was nothing contrived about Snider's contemptuous snarl, he was undergoing a very public catharsis - but it was an important part of the equation.

On the issue of distracting the team, as it faces New Jersey's late challenge for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, we'll just have to see where the story goes from here.

``It's big for a few days, then it's all lawyers,'' Clarke predicted yesterday. Then he added: ``I hope, anyway.''

BOB'S HOUSE OF BARGAINS Bob Clarke talked again yesterday about how Vaclav ``Vinny'' Prospal, up from the Phantoms because of the injuries to Eric Lindros and Dale Hawerchuk (left groin), deserves a long look. In fact, Clarke, a longtime doubter of Prospal's speed, said that ``in my opinion, he's going to play in the NHL. If he's not quite ready, he will be soon.''

Now, maybe Clarke really has done a 180-degree turnaround over the past few months on the subject of Prospal's NHL viability. Or maybe, with Hawerchuk having turned in about eight productive weeks all season, the Flyers are more desperate than they were earlier. But there is another possibility, as well.

Clarke couldn't help but notice the load of spuds Washington GM David Poile dropped on Harry Sinden's desk before walking away with Adam Oates, Rick Tocchet and Bill Ranford. If there had been a cartoon thought balloon over Clarke's head after that deal was announced, it might have read: Heck, if Jason Allison and Anson Carter can be passed off as great young prospects, then so can Vinny!

There were lots of scouts in the Core-States Center press box Wednesday night for Prospal's NHL debut, in which he played between John LeClair and Mikael Renberg.

Prospal, 22, the American Hockey League's leading scorer, practiced in that esteemed company again yesterday, and presumably will play there tomorrow in Pittsburgh, if Lindros isn't ready. If Lindros is ready, Prospal probably will center the second line, Hawerchuk's job in healthier times.

And the Flyers have five games left before the March 18 trading deadline.

TIED TO THE WIPPING POST The Flyers probably are stuck with WIP for the near future.

When the Flyers announced Wednesday that they were suing the radio station and host Craig Carton, chairman Ed Snider said the team would attempt to buy out the remainder of its contract with the station, which airs the team's games.

The contract is in place through next season.

Unless Infinity Broadcasting Corp., which owns WIP, accepts a buyout, a source familiar with the contract said yesterday that the Flyers cannot negotiate with another station until the negotiating period with WIP expires.

ICE CUBES Goaltender Ron Hextall practiced hard yesterday, and Flyers coach Terry Murray said Hextall would start one of this weekend's games, although he didn't say which one . . . Chris Therien has been promoted to a pairing with Eric Desjardins, a move that reflects both Therien's strong improvement over the past several weeks and Petr Svoboda's recent struggles. On Wednesday, Svoboda was back with Karl Dykhuis. Murray said he has been impressed to see Therien continue to play assertively, now that he often is out against the opposition's top lines.

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