The 44 Most Memorable Things about the Eric Lindros Era (Part 1)
With the Flyers inducting Eric Lindros and John LeClair into their Hall of Fame tonight, we thought it would be a good idea to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the 44 most memorable things about the Lindros era (loosely defined as 1992-2000).
This is Part 1 of 2. Part 2 will be posted later.
The Crazy Eights
Before The Legion of Doom, there was The Crazy Eights— Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi and BRENT FEDYK(!). I literally have no idea what happened to Fedyk, and I’m not sure I want to know. I’d prefer to keep him and his gorgeous, sweet mullet a mystery.
Keith Jones saving Lindros in a bathtub
I asked Glen Macnow about this one. His words:
The shame of the Lindros Era is that fans were dragged into an unending feud between Lindros’ family and Bob Clarke. They wanted to like Lindros. They always loved Clarkie and the Flyers organization. So fans had to feel like the children of divorcing parents.
Low ebb came after Lindros sustained a concussion in a game in Nashville in 1999, and was discovered shivering in the hotel bathtub by teammate Keith Jones. Flyers management wanted Lindros on a plane back to Philly, but Jonesy took him to a Nashville hospital. Turned out to be a life-saving move by Keith, because Lindros had a collapsed lung, had lost half his internal blood and a plane flight could have been disastrous.
That, of course, led to Carl Lindros, Eric’s dads, writing a letter accusing the team of intentionally trying to kill his son. Which led to Clarkie calling Tim Panaccio an asshole on live TV, and Eric accusing the Flyers of improperly sharpening his skates, and then Clarke’s “What are we selling — wheat?” quote. Damn thing all spiraled out of control.
Oh, the rumors. It’s hard to know where the truth ends and the fiction begins when it comes to Lindros. If you believe everything you hear, he was basically a drunken mobster who spit on chicks when he wasn’t boinking Rod Brind’Amour’s wife. How much of that is true? Who knows. But when I tweeted about this topic this morning, looking for some items I may have missed, so many more stories crept to the surface:
I asked Sarah Baicker about that last one. Her words:
“I was told that Brind’Amour’s wife was very pregnant when all those rumors were going on. So I’m under the impression no one who was around actually believes it. [But] it’s good to know good storylines come back all the time (a la Jeff Carter-Scott Hartnell et al). Everything is a cycle. Also, I have a picture of me and Eric Lindros in 1997 and he’s wearing acid wash dad jeans. So that really bums me out.”
HEY– did you hear the one about Sarah Baicker and Eric Lindros?!
Scott Stevens and Eric Lindros had some battles, but unfortunately, if you mention the name Scott Stevens in Philadelphia, the only thing anyone remembers is the hit that ended Lindros’ Flyers career.
Side note: I’m fully convinced that Lindros coming back in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils that year cost the Flyers the Stanley Cup. They were rolling without him and still held a 3-2 lead in the series. Throughout his career, things always got weird when Lindros returned from injury. Teammates, who would grow accustomed to playing without 88, seemed to defer to him upon his return. Lindros didn’t play poorly in Games 6 and (a little bit of) 7, but the Flyers were a different team.
Side note 2: It was trainer John Worley that Lindros and his family blamed for misdiagnosing a concussion that season. The assistant trainer for the Wild when they take on the Flyers tonight? John Worley.
Remember in the 90’s when black was the fashionable jersey color? Making it’s debut during the 1997 season, the black jersey was a departure from the typical white-orange home-away combo. Unfortunately, this one stuck around, in various iterations, 10 years too long, until 2010.
Before the black jerseys, there were these fashion blue jerseys that everyone thought the Flyers would eventually adopt as their alternate. They didn’t, thankfully. Consider these the precursor to those hideous Tony The Tiger Winter Classic fakes idiots still wear around the Wells Fargo Center.
Gary Thorne and ESPN’s National Hockey Night theme song
As great as Doc Emrick is, nothing will ever compare to the ESPN National Hockey Night theme combined with Gary Thorne’s pipes. His voice lent an air of gravitas to whichever game it happened to be describing.
The World Cup of Hockey
I still have no idea what the World Cup of Hockey was (is?). It used to be the Canada Cup or some hooey, but since everyone hates Canada, it was renamed the World Cup… and then Nike gave Team USA RIDICULOUS jerseys… and for some reason the WCOH was chosen as the sporting event to open the CoreStates Center in the summer of 1996. Game 1 of the best-of-three final series between, who else, the United States and Canada was held in Philly. Keith Tkachuk tied it with seven seconds to go, and that moment was indeed the loudest I’ve ever heard the now-Wells Fargo Center get. USA would go on to lose the game in overtime (ON A BLOWN OFFSIDES CALL!), but they won the final two in Montreal to win the tournament.
The 1997 goal horn
Heard this one a lot that year. Hey, hey, hey!
John LeClair’s destruction of his former team
John LeClair had 32 goals and 20 assists in 38 career games against the Canadiens. That’s ridiculous.
Legendary tears. Legendary.
I mean, he spelled his name with a J!
Chris Therien’s dominance over Jaromir Jagr
I asked Chris Therien about it. His words:
“[That first game I played against him] he stayed to the outside and I don’t think he got a point. He got so frustrated he punched me in the head in the third period and I started laughing. I think the building just went crazy after that.”
“Desjardins and I played together, we helped each other. It wasn’t just one guy. Obviously, he was coming down my wing, so that is where I had success.”
“I’d always talk to him. It got to a point over the years where he would try to be my friend. He’d try to be my buddy at the beginning of hockey games so I would take it easy on him. He would be like “hey how’s everything going?” and that kind of stuff. I’d look at him like, “what, are you kidding me?”
“I remember one time in an afternoon game in Philly, Dan McGillis hit him in down in the corner… and he left the game. He just never came back. I think he played like two days later. He just did not want to be in Philadelphia or that era of the Philadelphia Flyers, it was a lot for him and we made it very difficult on him.”
“He got so frustrated I think he gave up after a while. I remember one time he asked me who I liked in a football game.”
Two years ago, when Jagr was on the Flyers, Therien let Jagr ahead of him to get on the team plane leaving Calagary, as is customary for broadcasters to do for players:
“He came by me, I waved him by, I said, “go ahead.” Then I said, “By the way, that’s the first time you ever got around me.”
Chris Gratton always taking slap shots at the five-hole
I swear to God, there may have never been a lazier, me-first underachiever in Flyers history. If that asshole took one more slap shot at the five-hole from the blue line I was going to… to… to complain about it in a blog post all these years later. But for real, he stunk.
Lindros’ NHL cover
This may have been peak Lindros.
Klatt bags 20, Missanelli bags groceries
Mike Missanelli told a caller that he’d buy him six months worth of groceries if Trent Klatt scored 20 goals in the 1996-1997 season. On March 1, 1997, in Boston, Klatt was sitting at 17 goals… and scored a hat trick.
I asked Missanelli about it. His words:
“He got to 20 by scoring a friggin’ hat trick on a Saturday afternoon against the Boston Bruins. Yes, I had to buy the guy a bag of groceries a week for 6 months. But the groceries were of my choosing. So after three weeks of buying him items such as Borscht, calf’s liver, tripe, any foul thing I could find, he surrendered the bet. His name was Ron.”
Lindros’ hit on Dackell
Roger Neilson getting lost
Roger Neilson, may he rest in peace, was a video addict and also a bit of a flake. He was notorious for getting lost on the way to games. From the Globe and Mail:
He has also provided the team, as he does everywhere he goes, with dozens of Roger Neilson stories, mostly involving his professorial absent-mindedness and legendary driving problems.
Brian Boucher’s save
This is barely part of the Lindros era, which would end a few games later. But it may be the greatest save in Flyers history.
We didn’t have season tickets, but one year – I think it was 1996-1997 – my dad took me to enough games that I was able to collect each of the eight or nine editions of Flyer Magazine. I never read them because it turns out they were just a collection of NovaCare and Comcast Metrophone ads, but we always bought them from that same proooooooograaaaams, yeeeeeaaaaarrrrboooooooks guy whom, I think, has worked every Philadelphia sporting even since I was born.* I loved the way they smelled. For real, part of my formative years were defined by brief endorphin spikes that would come when I buried my face into a new, crisp Flyer Magazine. I, um, was still a couple of years away from touching my first boob.
*Did you ever notice that there’s a slew of game-day employees that work at EVERY event at the sports complex? Someone needs to do a story on them. Like a seedy hotel room, they have to have seen some things over the years.
Lindros’ “friendship” with Joey Merlino
He says he’s one of the biggest hockey fans in the city.
He says he thinks Eric Lindros is “the best player in the NHL.”
And, in case anybody cares, he says he lost plenty betting on the Flyers during their dismal playoff run this year.
Joey Merlino, Passyunk Avenue coffee-shop impresario and reputed mob underboss, spoke out yesterday after two days of rumor and innuendo, fanned in large part by sports-talk radio station WIP (610-AM), about an alleged “relationship” between himself and the Flyers’ captain.
“It’s a crime,” said Merlino, who knows a little bit about that topic. “I met the guy three times in my whole life.”
What’s more, Merlino said, reports that Lindros was a friend of either of his sisters, Maria, 36, or Natalie, 19, are totally off base.
“He’s never met my sisters.”
Merlino, 33, said he was disgusted by the hype and frenzy over what he said was a non-story.
“I just want to clear the kid,” he said. “He did nothing wrong. Look, they’re gonna say and write whatever they want about me, but it’s a crime what they’re doin’ to him. . . . He makes $7 million a year. He don’t need this. . . .”
The Flyers, for their part, issued a statement saying they “will not respond to ridiculous, unfounded charges and innuendo.”
The thing about Lindros is that he redefined the archetype of a hockey player. No one had seen a big, hulking force that could also skate, shoot and score the way Lindros could. He destroyed people, too. In his early years, he was, in every sense of the phrase, a man-child.
Koo Koo Bananas
From Glen Macnow and Big Daddy Graham’s Great Book of Philadelphia Sports Lists:
“As a 19-year-old in 1992, Lindros was arrested after an incident at a Whitby, Ontario bar named Koo Koo Bananas. An innocent young thing accused the Flyers start of spitting beer at her and pouring a pitcher over the back of her head. Lindros was brought to trial, but acquitted when others testified that both Lindros and the girl were in the middle of an Animal House-style food fight, with geysers of suds flying everywhere. Ahh, youth.”
Sneaking into Game 1 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals
This is a personal tale. My mom is extraordinarily outgoing and talkative to anyone she comes across– quite literally, the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. I wanted badly to go to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997, but tickets were around $300-$400 just to get in. And this wasn’t with a StubHub guarantee. No, no. These were the days when you opened the classified section and called some guy name ‘Tone and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. That was too risky. So…….. my outgoing mother, who had befriended a butcher* at the Super Fresh on Baltimore Pike in Springfield, arranged a clandestine meeting between me, my dad and the butcher’s friend, Butch (yeah, I know…). Butch knew people. We were instructed to meet him ‘neath the flag pole on the Broad St. side of the CoreStates Center before Game 1. Butch was friends with some security guards and would be able to walk us by the ticket taker, we were told. Sure enough, we found Butch, he gave us a nod and walked us in, right through the turnstile. We were able to watch introductions, but things got awkward once the game started. Butch had left us by then, and since there was no standing room and a father with his 13-year-old son hanging by the bar at the Red Bell Brewery during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals raised flags, we kept getting chased and asked for our tickets. After a few instances of standing outside the women’s bathroom and telling guards we were just “waiting for my mom to come out” (she wasn’t with us), we decided to leave. I cried until we got home, where, presumably, I smelled my Flyer Magazine to make me feel better. In hindsight, the whole thing was a really terrible idea. But at least Butch didn’t murder us, hand us off to his butcher friend, and sell the meat to my mom. That would’ve been an unfortunate turn of events.
*No, they weren’t sleeping together. But quite frankly, I do wish they had been for the purposes of this story just so I could make a bad meat pun. My parents are still happily married.
Part 2 coming soon.