Past is past for former Flyer Lindros

Eric Lindros skates with Bob Clarke during Old Timers Night in 1996. (Daily News File Photo)
Eric Lindros skates with Bob Clarke during Old Timers Night in 1996. (Daily News File Photo)
Posted: December 27, 2011

In retrospect, it's fitting that Eric Lindros' Flyers career ended with headaches since, by the late spring of 2000, that's exactly what the star center and the team's leadership were to each other.

The migraine-like feud that pitted Lindros and his parents against the Flyers' Bob Clarke and Ed Snider grew so painfully rancorous that lawyers, parents, doctors, sportswriters, police, teammates, and trainers would be sucked into its vortex.

Now, nearly 12 years after his career here concluded with the last in a series of concussions, Lindros will be back in town to join the Flyers contingent for an alumni game at 1 p.m. on Saturday that is part of the NHL's Winter Classic. His return, not surprisingly, has awakened memories of the muddy soap opera that yielded endless headlines and animosity.

Curiously, though, for all the bitterness that marked the final years of Lindros' tenure here, neither side now seems eager to resurrect all those blasts from the past.

Lindros has refused interview requests, but in a Nov. 21 radio interview with WPEN-FM (97.5) he said, "There are going to be disagreements in life, and that's what the case was. Like I said, that's in the past."

Clarke, meanwhile, said basically the same, though he added a phrase that indicated there might still be some burning embers. "As far as I'm concerned, the feud is over. I couldn't be bothered one way or the other."

As contentious and constant as the long-running dispute between franchise and franchise player became, its absolute apex occurred in the aftermath of a chest injury Lindros suffered during an April 1, 1999, game in Nashville.

Back in his hotel that night, Lindros' condition deteriorated through the night. Eventually a lung collapsed and he needed emergency surgery at a Nashville hospital.

The Flyers, not knowing the injury's severity, had wanted to fly him back to Philadelphia for more tests. That, the Nashville doctors later concluded, would have killed him.

"We have been advised that had Eric attempted to fly back to Philadelphia as directed by [trainer] Mr. [John] Worley and Mr. Clarke, Eric would likely have died during or as a result of the flight," Carl Lindros wrote in an April 28, 1999, letter to Snider, which, along with other correspondence, the Flyers chairman allowed The Inquirer to review at the time.

Carl Lindros believed his son ought to have been X-rayed at the arena.

Worley said he was not then aware that an X-ray machine had been available at the facility. But even if he had known, he said, it's doubtful the blood in the chest cavity could have been detected, a claim Carl Lindros disputed.

And so an already festering dislike between the Lindroses and the Flyers ratcheted up to a life-or-death level. Contract disputes, upsets over parents the team saw as unnecessarily meddlesome and quarrelsome, and disagreements over concussion diagnoses and treatments suddenly seemed minor.

Lindros' parents - father Carl was his agent and mother Bonnie was involved in his career to an unusual degree - were furious that the team, in their view, had again acted recklessly in a serious health issue. They fired off angry letters to that effect to Snider, accusing everyone from trainer John Worley to then-GM Clarke of endangering their son's life.

The Flyers responded in kind. At one point, a frustrated Snider even suggested that a reporter investigate whether Lindros' injury might have been caused by a car crash and not a hockey game.

When Lindros criticized Worley publicly the following March, the Flyers responded by awarding the trainer a contract extension. Not long before The Inquirer ran a detailed account of the Nashville incident, Lindros was stripped of his captaincy.

Finally, after suffering another concussion in the 1999-2000 playoffs, his Philadelphia career was over. After sitting out the following season, he was traded to the Rangers.

"All the controversies, Eric brings them on himself," Clarke said in 2000. " 'John Worley wouldn't treat Eric properly. I was going to put him on a plane to try to kill him.' This kind of stuff never ends."

Now, a decade later, it might finally be over.


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068, ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com, or @philafitz on Twitter. Read his blog, Giving 'Em Fitz, at www.philly.com/fitz.

 

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