Cases for and against Lindros going into Hockey Hall of Fame

Lindros
Lindros
Posted: June 22, 2010

AN 18-MEMBER committee meets today to decide this year's inductees for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The bad news for Eric Lindros is that neither Bonnie Lindros nor Carl Lindros are one of the 18, from which 14 votes are required for election.

Geez, how did they miss that one?

The good news is that, just maybe, enough time has passed to dull some of the feelings toward them, and by extension, their kid. Because whether they do it by numbers, fame or even achievement, "E" should stand for "easy" here. Eric Lindros was dominant in his sport until injuries took him down, a ticket-seller, a hero, a villain.

He's a Hall of Fame player.

Even Bob Clarke says so.

Unfortunately, he too is not on the committee.

These hockey people have no sense of humor.

How fun would that be, Clarkie, Bonnie and Carl, all holed up in the same room after all these years, arguing on the same side?

Instead, the room will consist of some who played against Lindros, some who coached against him, some who chronicled his exploits and executives who ran the teams he went up against. The names include Colin Campbell, Harry Sinden, Pat Quinn, Serge Savard and John Davidson.

They will argue whether his proficiency over the short term is more or less important than the lack of longevity to his stardom. They will debate and try to quantify intangibles like leadership and the influence of his play on others.

They will talk championships, of course, or the lack of them. Did the Flyers simply not surround him with the talent that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux had, the two players with whom he was most often compared?

Or did Lindros just not do enough with the likes of John LeClair and Eric Desjardins and Ron Hextall - all nominees with him this year?

Here's what I think: Lindros was blessed and cursed by the same unique combination of skill and size. Comparisons with Gretzky and Lemieux were too narrow, invariably boiling down to talk of championships and leadership. Lindros never had the sidekicks Lemieux had, and the personnel of Gretzky's Oilers still sounds like a Canadian Olympic gold-medal team.

Of the two, only Lemieux had to maneuver through the clutch-and-grab trap era, and then only toward the end of his career. He complained about it constantly, mentioned it when he retired briefly while battling through Hodgkin's disease. Would Lindros have been more dominant in another era - like this one? Would he have suffered fewer than eight concussions with the more punitive rules in effect today?

And does any of it matter?

Lindros was famous. Can we all at least agree on that? He was the sixth-fastest player to amass 600 points and every one of them - including committee member Peter Stastny - is already in the hall. Lindros had LeClair and Mikael Renberg in his Legion of Doom days. Mike Bossy, one of the other six, had two other Hall of Famers, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, on his line. Playing on the same line, Gretzky and Jari Kurri also got to 600 faster than E.

He ranks 108th on the NHL's all-time points list. But he ranks 18th all-time in points per game at 1.138, a number diluted by his injury-plagued final seasons. Of the retired players ahead of him on that list, all but Kent Nilsson is in the Hall. Nilsson racked up his points in the WHA and the early days of the NHL's western expansion, then finished his career where it had started, in Sweden.

The others on that list - Jaromir Jagr, Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic - are headed to the Hall as well.

All three have had their name sketched onto the Stanley Cup twice. It's the most damning evidence against Lindros, that and behavior during his one chance, when he slipped out a back door of the locker room to escape the media when coach Terry Murray suggested the team was choking during Detroit's four-game Cup finals sweep in 1997. When things went well, there was no smugger man on the planet. When they didn't, there was no greater victim.

Always, Lindros wore that uncomfortable look of being squeezed into something unwillingly. His sadness coexisted with his greatness, and rightly or wrongly, it was always traced back to his upbringing.

It's an interesting examination of our two sports cultures. For most hockey fans, at least the ones from Canada, the dislike of Lindros began when he successfully dictated both the junior team he played for, and the pro team he played for. Lindros' refusal to play for the financially strapped Quebec Nordiques was not unlike the position J.D. Drew took in forcing his way out of a Phillies uniform.

But Drew is not universally despised by baseball fans today, just the ones in Philadelphia. Sure, he's never come close to realizing the potential that made him so coveted in the first place, but that's hardly the reason. Baseball fans had grown accustomed to the financial tug and pull of the game way before Drew came along.

What the Lindros family did in Canada challenged a culture.

It's why I don't think he gets in today as a first-ballot guy, as wrong as that is.

This time, mommy and daddy aren't calling the shots. And yet somehow, Sonny still pays.

Send e-mail to

donnels@phillynews.com.

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http://go.philly.com/donnellon.

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