TORONTO -- You could see it on his face and hear it in his voice over the past few days.
Eric Lindros could breathe deeply, smile and finally smell the roses of a career that came with so much promise and potential.
While his career was never validated with a Stanley Cup championship, the game provided Lindros with a different degree of satisfaction.
"I love the friendships that hockey has fostered," he said during his enshrinement speech into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night. "No other sport brings people of different backgrounds together."
Lindros spoke for seven minutes, acknowledging the many coaches and teammates he played with, but reserved much of his praise for his Legion of Doom linemates.
"Special thanks to John LeClair and Mikael Renberg for their intensity and joy of the game," Lindros said before recalling a certain fight he had with the Kings' Marty McSorley.
His career off the ice was a similarly-fought battle. He informed the Quebec Nordiques, who drafted him No. 1 overall, he would never play with them and then promptly sat out the 1991-92 season. Lindros took a stance no hockey player had ever done while many pointed to his parents, father Carl and mother Bonnie, as the instigators behind the superstar's decisions. Obviously, Lindros saw it differently.
"Every kid should be that lucky, and they (Carl and Bonnie) allowed me to make my own decisions even if they weren't that popular," he told the packed crowd at Toronto's Brookfield Plaza.
Over time, the Lindros family developed a resentment toward the Flyers organization on how to manage the superstar's health following repeated concussions. Former Flyers general manager Bob Clarke, who had repeated battles and quarrels with the Lindros camp, finally came to the realization after stepping down from his GM post in 2006 that Lindros needed a team to attach his legacy to moving forward. Clarke, along with Paul Holmgren, began the process to repair the damage. Lindros, on the other hand, gained some much-needed perspective through his wife Kina, who he married in 2012.
"My journey in the hockey world was a roller coaster," Lindros said. "It left me with bitter feelings and Kina has brought me balance."
At the age of 43, Lindros has been removed from the NHL for nine years now, but only recently has it taken the former Flyers superstar to fully realize why he fell in love with the game as a kid growing up in London, Ontario. He's even back to playing pick-up games twice a week.
"I enjoy the action of it," he told reporters this week. "I enjoy the rinks. I enjoy the ice. I enjoy the sounds. I enjoy the cling of the post, the feeling of moving the puck past a goaltender and seeing a red light go on."
It wasn't always that way, and his hockey career may not have gone exactly as planned, but Lindros was determined to share this one crowning achievement. He capped his speech by inviting his younger brother, Brett, on stage to indulge in the moment.
"Although we never played together, I want to close this chapter of my life with you beside me," Lindros said as he finished his speech.
It was a selfless and classy moment and some self perspective that in the 25 years since his selection as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 NHL draft, the career of Eric Lindros wasn't always about Eric Lindros.