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Eric Lindros: Purveyor of Doom

August 15, 2011 Players No Comments

Eric Lindros: Purveyor of doom
By Stan Fischler
Oct 30, 2001, 07:13

 

©BBS

Like many journalists, I had heard Eric Lindros horror stories. From Junior days, there were tales of his overprotective mother. And, of course, there was Eric’s Francophobia—resulting in his decision to renounce Les Nordiques as his team of choice. Others said he was an introvert, a difficult interview and, not surprisingly, a spoiled brat.

All of these were impressions delivered before I had ever met Eric Lindros in person.

Our first meeting was about a year-and-a-half ago at New Jersey’s Brendan Byrne Arena. Eric had agreed to a live, impromptu interview between the first and second period of a Devils-Flyers game. It had been an especially mean match, with Lindros and New Jersey’s captain Scott Stevens hurtling smashing bodychecks at one another. Philly was losing the game and Eric was—for the moment, at least—losing the checking battle.

“The way things are going on the ice,” my SportsChannel producer whispered over my headphones, “don’t be surprised if he stiffs you.”

It is not uncommon for athletes to forget about a live interview if they are experiencing difficulty on the field, or in this case, the rink. Certainly, Lindros owed me nothing. So I braced for a no-show.

But the period ended, and sure enough Eric was there; on time, cooperative and eloquent, at that. He showed me a lot of class with his insights.

Nor was it the only time he would impress me. Twice this season I asked him aboard for interviews at the Spectrum. Again I was warned by Philadelphia TV people that he might not show, and not to be surprised. I didn’t have to hold my breath. On each occasion he arrived more punctual than most, eager to chat and as perfectly amiable as anyone could imagine.

To say that I had become a Lindros fan would be a slight exaggeration, but I was certainly impressed with the Flyers captain as both an athlete and as an individual. Despite his relative youth, he has assumed his club’s mantle of leadership and led them to first place in the Atlantic Division, and a rare Flyers playoff berth.

Because of his total value to the team, Eric is a serious candidate for the Hart (MVP) Trophy and has emerged as the NHL’s youngest marquee talent. If Bettman, Inc. has been searching for an heir to Wayne Gretzky, it may well have found one on Broad Street, at the center of Philadelphia’s “Legion of Doom” line.

Just prior to the season’s end, Lindros fielded questions from journalists in all parts of the continent during an NHL-sponsored, league-wide conference call. Here is some of that interview.

During the last three years you have probably gotten tired of watching the playoffs from afar. Do you think the trade with Montreal is what will put you over the top?

I think our depth has improved dramatically with Eric Desjardins back on the point. He is on (ice) every other shift. He is playing close to the top of his game. That had really been a big factor, having another real quality defenseman back there. With Gilbert Dionne, he is a real character. He is a lot of fun in the dressing room. He is great off the ice (and) he is playing well on the ice. He may not be scoring right now, but he certainly is being very effective in the role he is playing. And John LeClair, I don’t even need to touch base on that at all. It is incredible how well he has performed and how things have been going. Yeah, I do think this trade has us into a position where we can compete with the best teams knowing every night we have a chance to win.

As far as the line, I really enjoy it. I have two big wingers to play with who have the speed to go to the net. I don’t have to be as physical—you know, forechecking and taking the body as much. I think I haven’t been running around with my head cut off quite as much as I had in the previous two years. That has been great. It really helped me improve in other aspects of my game.

Our skills are improving. We are just taking every day as a new day and just going out and having some fun with it.

With the Canadiens, John LeClair wasn’t producing as much offensively, and he’s mentioned the pressure of playing in Montreal. Is he more relaxed, and could that be a main reason for his success?

Well, the climate here is a little different as far as the media pressure goes. Anytime that you are playing in Montreal or Toronto or the big Canadian cities, there is a different element that has to come into play. Down in Philly, we have a pretty relaxed environment in comparison to those cities, and I have to agree that maybe could be a factor. 

But are you surprised by him?

He can’t miss. He can’t miss right now. He is playing so great, it is just incredible. I have the best job in hockey right now. I can find two guys on the ice. I have got two to look for, and I only have to find one. Generally, with the quick pass, I have got a real good scoring chance.

In your first couple of years with the Flyers, you didn’t seem ready to step into a leadership role. You seemed more content with being part of the team. Now you are the youngest captain in the NHL. Do you think that your role has changed?

I am not the Flyers. I am not changing at all. I am improving. Our team is improving. We are all getting better together. When we step on the ice, it is not (just) me. I am playing with two great players right now on the line. We’ve got great goaltending in the pipes. We have great defenseman. I don’t think I really changed that much. I think I have improved as a player, but I am really happy with how strong our team is in other aspects.

But are you comfortable with your leadership role?

Again, I really haven’t changed that much. I think that with every game you learn something. You might learn more and more about how the game is played—little things—just running with a guy like Craig MacTavish. I don’t see everything. I don’t know everything. And he has certainly been through it all, and having guys like him around keep (us on) an even keel. I think that has helped quite a bit in terms of everybody’s development as leaders, not just someone who might wear the captain’s C.

You’ve stayed healthier this year. Is that simply because you have bigger linemates and maybe you have toned down your aggressive game a little bit?

I think so. If the hit is there, it is there. Gordie Howe told me not too long ago that it is great to go out and play physical—do your job that way—but pick your spots. When the (chance to) hit is 50/50, maybe you just take your check. (But) when it is 95 percent, go right at it—do your thing and you will accomplish more from it.

So I think that with the other two big guys that I am fortunate to play with, we spread (the physical game) out. It is not one guy or two guys. It is all three of us that really get a chance to bump and grind and to control the puck along the boards. And I think our skills are improving because we are not concentrating on being the forechecker. We spread it out.

You’ve been on a monstrous hot streak. Is that due strictly to your “Legion of Doom” linemates?

It is a combination of everything. Certainly we have been on streaks before. Playing with Brent Fedyk and Mark Recchi a couple of years ago, we really had gotten on a hot streak, but we didn’t have the team that we have now. I really look at the (overall team) depth, and really compliment the moves that have happened here. (As for) points, there are a 100 plays that happen before a goal goes into the net. A lot of times it is a great transition play by our defenseman stepping up. (Or) throwing the puck off the glass on a line change and catching the other team. There are a lot of things that happen prior to a goal being scored. It is not just a couple of guys, it is everybody.

There has been a fairly remarkable amount of turnover in personnel as this season has progressed. Do you have any observations about the job that Terry Murray has done in blending it together?

Well, he has done a great job. I think with the changeover in personnel, everyone is starting to have a really good grasp on the system that we’re trying to play every night. We are learning every day in practice. We are learning on the videotape. And that is to his credit.

Can you be a little more specific about the little things that are improving in your game, and what impact, if any, Coach Murray has had on the way you play?

The little things. Picking up our checks coming through the neutral zone was something that we (work on). We are learning faceoffs. We always have a game plan for every faceoff that sets what we want to accomplish from a won draw—or a draw that we lose, what we want to do to defend against the rush. “Holdups”—you know, trying to give our defense time so that they can get back there and make the good play to get out of the zone, which in turn helps us have some scoring chances. Those are the little things.

As far as Terry and my game personally, well, at the start of the year, I was playing all right. I wasn’t playing all that great, but he has always had his lines of communications open to me. He has always been real honest with me. He knows—I know—in my heart when I haven’t performed as well as I can, and he has always been there to back it up. You can’t hide anything. When things aren’t going well, he always wants to know what is going on; to see if everything is all right. He really looks after all the guys.

Are the Rangers as good or as formidable an opponent as the team that won the Stanley Cup last year?

I don’t see why not. I mean, they still have all the key elements that they had last year. They are a real strong hockey club.

With the next round of expansion in the near future, what are your thoughts about hockey in Arizona?

First of all it’s awfully warm out there. We found that out on a road trip. I think hockey is really (taking off) around the States. It has been great. Even with The Lockout, as much as it was a real disturbance to our league, I think it helped the other leagues—the other pro leagues—really get some attention; attention that (they) deserved because it is really good hockey that’s being played. As far as expanding out into Phoenix—I don’t know what to say. That would be terrific. I would really enjoy playing there.

Do you think expansion will be good or bad for the League?

I think that with expansion, more and more players that might not have a chance (otherwise) will get a chance to play. And they are improving things with the goals being down this year. I think it is a real credit to the talent of the defensive players. I think it is a whole lot tougher these days to get a good forecheck with the way that trap is set up, the way the goaltending has been. I just wouldn’t point out, say, that the goals are down and (say) the talent pool is low. I think quite the opposite.

I think the game is improving, and there aren’t the weak teams where you can go in and grab seven or eight points as an individual. I think it has really improved in that respect.

You came into the league with so many expectations. Has there ever been a point where those expectations have gotten to you, and changed you in any way?

Well, I just turned 22. I plan on being in the game a long time. Certainly coming in because of the way I was treated, things started to heat up a little bit, but I don’t think I have changed all that much. I still love the game. I will always love the game. Some days are better than others. But just having the chance to go out and play is what I enjoy the most. And now that we have such a strong team everybody shares it.

Everybody has that same feeling—that fun feeling where everyday in practice it is a challenge. It is something that everyone is enjoying. We are having competition with the goaltenders. We are playing. We are supposed to be grown men, mature guys, but in our hearts we are kids having fun, playing a game that we love.

This first appeared in the 07/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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