With the Winter Classic around the corner, NBC Philadelphia’s John Clark sat down with Flyers legend Eric Lindros about his upcoming return to the ice with the Orange and Black.
Lindros, now 38, spoke recently near his Toronto home about his eight-plus seasons in Philly, Flyers fans and the blows to the head that cut Lindros’ brilliant career short.
With current NHL point leader Claude Giroux joining captain Chris Pronger and budding star Brayden Schenn as being out of action for the Orange and Black due to concussions, the fomer MVP’s words about how repeated head blows can affect players seem even more pertinent.
“Certainly I’ve had a bunch of them but I wouldn’t base things on numbers, I’d base them on severity.”
Lindros took some vicious shots to the head while playing with the Flyers including a brutal hit from the Devils Scott Stevens in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals that in effect ended Lindros' run in Philly. He had returned just one game earlier after a blow to the head during an earlier game knocked him out of action for more than two months.
“That’s the crazy thing about the mind, the brain, is that what happens to one person isn’t necessarily… that you’re going to get the same reaction by another one down the road. Everyone is different; everyone is affected differently by these problems.”
Lindros says he’s lucky that he doesn’t feel the daily effects of post-concussion symptoms like former Flyers captain Keith Primeau and others.
“I feel blessed in many ways with the approaches I took… my parents researched and talked with as many of the professionals as they could.
“I’m happy that I feel healthy, I feel strong and I’ve been through a number of these. And in terms of severity it could have been a lot worse.”
Lindros doesn’t even know the definite number of concussions he suffered in his career.
“I don’t think you put a number on things with that. I think it’s severity -- It think everyone reacts differently.”
There’s no benefit to looking back at his hockey playing days and wishing for better health, Lindros said.
“I don’t think it does anyone any good to look back. I would look forward and talk what we can do… with preventative measures to lower the numbers possibly -- get rid of the risk.”
Lindros believes that hockey folks and doctors knew a lot about concussions back in his day -- possibly more than they let known -- but that they know even more today.
Lindros says that “it’s unfortunate” that it took some big names like Penguins star Sidney Crosby -- who is out again after missing 10 months following back-to-back blows to the head -- suffering head blows for concussions to become such a hot topic issue in the NHL.
“Listen, they’re gonna happen. This is a quick game, there’s contact. Now that they’ve opened up the ice and gotten rid of the red line I think that this game is way faster than it ever once was.
“...Can you prevent them? You can alter and change a few things in my opinion but they are going to occur. So what are we going to do after?”
Lindros says that a key to prevention starts at the youth level and goes up the ladder from there.
“I just believe that there could be a few things that could be tweaked to lessen the likelihood of the inevitable.”
Despite the progress more could be done, Lindros said.
“I think there has been progress in looking at them and saying this is what’s needed, these are kinda of some ideas, some guidelines -- not necessarily correct for everybody -- but these are some basic principles that we can look at.
“It’s not like you can go… and trade, stall your brain and pick up a fresh one.”
Despite having to retire after the 2006-2007 season at just 33 years old, Lindros isn’t bitter about his body failing to carry him to a long career.
“Hockey’s been good to me, I’ve enjoyed hockey... it’s an awesome game,” he said.
Lindros will be joining former line-mate John LeClair on the ice in the Winter Classic Alumni game. The duo will also be in town later this week for a series of events to raise money for CHOP.
And keep watching in the coming weeks for more from Lindros as he looks back on his hockey career in Philly.
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