When Eric Lindros’ Flyers career ended with a fourth concussion in the spring of 2000, the last thing anyone considered was whether the franchise centerman would someday be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The viable question then was whether he’d ever wear orange and black again in the NHL. He didn’t.
Eventually, the former captain did don his No. 88 Flyers jersey once more at a 2012 Winter Classic alumni game a few days before the Flyers faced the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.
And on Monday, the most heralded Flyers center since Bobby Clarke was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The 43-year-old Lindros becomes the 11th member of the Flyers organization in the Hall. The last was defenseman Mark Howe in 2011.
Because of his tumultuous relationship with Clarke, then the general manager, plus the fact he missed more than two seasons with injuries — nearly all of which were concussion-related — it was questionable whether the third-leading scorer among Flyers centermen (659 points) would ever enter the Hall.
Clarke, who sits on the Hall’s selection committee and was instrumental in getting Lindros enshrined, said some years ago that regardless of how things unfolded in the past, Lindros was deserving of enshrinement as one of the preeminent centers of his generation.
Anyone who saw Lindros play in 1990s would admit he was the most dominant power forward of his era and rightfully belonged there.
NFL coaches design defenses to stop specific quarterbacks and running backs, and NHL coaches had to design game plans to contain the towering 6-foot-4 Lindros.
“You look at Eric when he played, he was dominant,” former teammate John LeClair said in 2014. “When you compare some of the players who have gotten in that played with him, it’s not even close.
“When players were getting ready to play, they weren’t saying, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to play against so and so or so and so.’
“Every time they had to play against Eric, they knew they were playing him two or three days ahead of time and they were ready because they knew that he was just a dominant force out there and they had to be ready.”
LeClair was Lindros’ linemate for 5½ years. Their line with Mikael Renberg — "The Legion of Doom" — ranks among the best in team history.
The Legion of Doom line had two years of remarkable performances under coach Terry Murray with a record 255 points in 1995-96 followed by 235 points in 1996-97, the only year they skated together in a Stanley Cup Final.
“John, Mikael and I were a pretty special group,” Lindros recalled two years ago. “We set up one another and we certainly enjoyed playing with one another and being together on and off the ice. It really was a special group to be involved with.
“We were a pretty confident bunch. Certainly, there we some times that it didn’t turn out that way. But we’d like to think that overall we had a pretty good positive effect on the outcome of our games.”
The biggest blemish against Lindros was that he played just 760 games (486 as a Flyer) and wasn’t a 1,000-point player (865 points).
Well, neither was Peter Forsberg, who had 885 points in 708 games, and like Lindros, lost a third of his career to injury, mostly regarding his feet and ankles.
Forsberg, who was part of the mega eight-player (including draft picks), $15 million deal that saw Lindros become a Flyer, did win two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche.
“Eric Lindros versus, whether it’s (Cam) Neely or Forsberg, Eric was a dominant player,” current Flyers GM Ron Hextall said. “Was it long enough? I don’t have the answer. He was a dominant player.
“There were years when you would say ‘Is he a Hall of Fame player? Yes.’ And probably other years where he was injured or hurt. Whether he did it long enough, for me, would be the question. He was a dominant player, no doubt.’’
The Hart Trophy winner in 1995, Lindros ranks in the top 10 in Flyers history in goals (290), assists (369), points, power play goals (82) and hat tricks (11).
His 1.36 points per game remain a franchise record.
“His comparison blows a lot of guys out of the water,” LeClair said.
During the 2014-15 season, Lindros and LeClair were inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame.
All of the negativity that engulfed Lindros and the club during his eight years here has evaporated over time as fans came to understand that Lindros was at the forefront of players who suffered from post-concussion syndrome.
Whereas in the 1990s few knew or understood the disease, now both the NHL and NFL have guidelines in place to help protect players, though it’s arguable how closely those guidelines are followed.
For Lindros himself, he said he loved his time in Philadelphia, regardless of his feuds with the team over concussions. “The Big E” played 13 years in the league and was traded to the Rangers in 2001 after sitting out the previous season as a Flyer.
“They know hockey here,” Lindros said of Flyers fans. “They know the ins and outs of the game. They know when things are going well and when they’re not. They know, in some cases, really definitively why.
“As vocal as they are, it’s great when things are rolling, and it’s a real pick up your socks when things aren’t going so strongly. They’re true fans.”
And Lindros is a true Hockey Hall of Famer.