All it took to end the Flyers career of Eric Lindros was one devastating shoulder to the chin from Scott Stevens.
This day, in 2000, just 7 minutes and 50 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Stevens, the most intimidating defenseman in New Jersey Devils history, caught Lindros in transition coming across center ice in the Flyer offensive zone … with his head down.
In real time, measured against today’s standards, Stevens’ hit on Lindros is nothing compared to what seems to occur nightly in the NHL at breakneck speed.
The difference is, back then, the Stevens’ hit was deemed legal.
Today, it would draw a five-minute major, game misconduct and possible suspension because the principal point of contact from Stevens’ shoulder was the chin and forehead of Lindros.
Stevens was 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Lindros was two inches taller — but smaller when he tucked his head down, as he often did when he skated hard and fast. He weighed 25 pounds more. Didn’t matter. Stevens dropped Lindros to the ice and a hush came over the arena now called Wells Fargo Center.
The significance of the hit is obvious. It marked the end of Lindros’ career as a Flyer. Recall, he had missed more than two months because of headaches, and came into the series in Game 6.
The Flyers lost Game 7, 2-1. They lost a series they once led 3-1. And they lost perhaps the greatest power forward of his generation. No player dominated the ice like Lindros. He was unique in that NHL coaches actually had to design game plans around defending him.
Stevens’ hit resulted in Lindros’ sixth concussion as a Flyer, but more significantly, it was his fourth in five months. He would sit out the entire following season with post-concussion syndrome while demanding a trade that would eventually come with the New York Rangers.
Lindros' impact in eight years as a Flyer can’t be understated. He is among the club’s all-time top 10 in goals (290) assists (369) and points (659) and is the third-highest scoring centerman in Flyers history.
Tragically, he was also the NHL’s poster child for post-concussion syndrome. At the time, the Flyers, the league and many neurologists weren’t sure of the ramifications of this medical term, but in coming years, it would become synonymous with head injuries in every sport.
Medically speaking, this remains the biggest impact Lindros had on hockey — he brought much-needed focus to concussions.
Sadly, during his 13-year career, Lindros missed the equivalent of two more seasons because of injuries, most of which were concussion-related.