The dream of every young hockey player is to make it to the National Hockey League. The idea of making it into the Hockey Hall of Fame is generally not even considered when a young hockey player laces up the skates. The lucky few who get the opportunity to play a National Hockey League game often remark about their new goal being to stay in the league for as long as possible and hopefully winning a Stanley Cup. The Hall of Fame is reserved for a select few players that have managed to achieve great heights over their career. It would be distracting for a current player to try and measure if they are worthy of Hall of Fame status even though the appetite for speculation by fans is insatiable.
When it comes to current players it may be considered speculation as their careers are ongoing so their legacy's are incomplete, but with retired players who are eligible for Hall induction or on the cusp of eligibility it is perfectly legitimate to measure their careers and discuss if their accomplishments warrant membership in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
An example of a former player that inspires such discussion is Eric Lindros. Lindros has always been the type of player that has polarized the hockey world. Before we were all Crosby Crazy or Ovie Obsessed, it was all Lindros all the time. He was not the first young superstar hockey player to come along, but he was the first to appear in the age of the all sports television and radio networks. Lindros's emergence also coincided with the birth of the internet. So his every move was scrutinized like no hockey player before him.
Lindros also had to deal with the unenviable position of being crowned "the next one" in clear reference to following Gretzky "the great one". Before Eric Lindros even played his first NHL regular season game, pundits had him challenging and breaking records set by Gretzky. Eric Lindros has been eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame for a few years now and his absence has been hotly debated. Here are the top 10 reasons Eric Lindros should be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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10 Face of the game
Controversy surrounded Lindros even when he was a young phenom playing minor hockey. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League drafted the teenage Lindros even though he vowed not to play for the Greyhounds. This was only a taste of what was to come as Lindros would be involved in a similar situation with the Quebec Nordiques during his NHL draft year. In today's social media world you can create controversy and attention vis-a-vie Kim Kardashian, but not too long ago you needed talent and ability to get people excited and/or upset. Lindros was one of only a handful of players during his day who could dominate headlines and water cooler conversation and that was because his on ice ability was that unique and special.
9 International Accomplishments
The World Junior Championship Tournament has grown in exposure over the years. It has come to be known as the marquee event to showcase the best hockey players in the world under the age of 20. Lindros played in and dominated this tournament three times, acting as captain and becoming Canada's all time leader in points at the World Juniors.
Lindros was such a phenom that he was selected to Team Canada at the 1991 Canada Cup before he even played a game in the NHL. He was selected to this team ahead of future Hall of Famers Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk and Joe Sakic. Furthermore, Lindros won a silver medal and gold medal at the Olympics and was Canada's Captain at the 1998 Olympics, where if not for the heroics of Dominik Hasek, Lindros would have likely earned another Olympic medal. Lindros rounded out his international playing career as a member of Canada's World Cup team in 1996. For over a decade from 1991 to 2002 Eric Lindros was a key member in Canadian hockey's international success at the highest levels winning multiple medals, championships and setting records.
8 The Big E...as in Enforcer
There are no players in the Hall of Fame that were strictly fighters during their NHL careers, but there are plenty of talented players who were almost equally known for their fighting prowess as their goal scoring ability. Eric Lindros would have been an exciting prospects if he was four inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter because he had such great talent, but what made him so unique was how he combined his incredible talent with such ferocity.
Lindros was a throwback superstar, cut from the same cloth as Gordie Howe in the sense that he didn't need a thug riding shotgun to ensure he got the respect and room to display his high skill. Lindros didn't fight much during his career for a couple of important reasons. He was more valuable on the ice than in the penalty box and also because opposing players and teams quickly learned that he was one of the best fighters in the entire league. Not many other players in the history of hockey have simultaneously been the most skilled and most feared, but no.88 was.
7 Most Valuable Player
At the end of the 1994-95 season, Eric Lindros's third full season in the NHL, he was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player. Equally as impressive is during the same year Lindros won the Lester B. Pearson award as the league's most valuable player as voted on by the players. During that lockout shortened year and so early in Lindros's career he was unequivocally viewed as the most valuable player. This was during a time in hockey when the competition for such a moniker was fierce between players like Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier and Jagr. Oh and he was only 21 years old at the time, not to shabby for a kid.
6 Legion of Doom
A sign of a great player is not only measured in his own accomplishments but in how their play elevates the success of their teammates. For a few years in the early 1990's into the latter half of the decade, Eric Lindros was the centerpiece of the league's most recognizable and productive trio. Lindros was the first line center of the Philadelphia Flyers and his wingers were John Leclair and Mikael Renberg, coming together to form the notorious Legion of Doom line. John Leclair was a solid player for the Montreal Canadians and won a Stanley Cup with them and Mikael Renberg was a staple for the Swedish national team, but Lindros's skill and ability helped put them in position to rack up points at a pace neither player was accustomed to before or after playing with Eric.
Gretzky dominated the game with vision and creativity and Lemieux's dominance came from talent and finesse, but what made Lindros so special was he had the unique combination of skill, size and strength that had not been seen in one player before. Lindros was a man-child who could impose his will on any opponent. He was so big and strong and yet so skilled that he could bulldoze over players while maintaining control of the puck. He would force his way into scoring areas where he could fire off a lethal shot or make a silky smooth pass to a wide open teammate for an easy tap in goal. During the 1990's every team Lindros faced were frightened even before the opening faceoff.
4 Changed the game
The modern incarnation of the NHL is made up of a careful balance of power between the NHL owners and the Players Association. Through various lockouts and work stoppages the league now has a strict salary cap, but also a faster acting free agency policy. When Eric Lindros was drafted in 1991 at the age of 18, league rules held him bound to the team that drafted him until he was 31 years old. Lindros felt he should have some say in where he was going to play and earn a living for the next 13 years. A player of his promise was able to put pressure on the establishment and force the NHL to look at its treatment of young players and help lead to changing how the NHL operates.
3 Injury shortened career not a killer
Today concussions are taken seriously in the NHL and the dangers of their long term affects are studied instead of dismissed. Many of Lindros's detractors point to his injury troubles and lack of longevity as a key reason why he should not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. When you look at players who had similar injury problems like Pat Lafontaine or Cam Neely but still made it into the Hall of Fame, it is difficult to justify Lindros's absence. Both Lafontaine and Neely went their entire careers without a major individual award unlike Lindros and neither had as decorated an international career. Lindros will always be plagued by the what if's, but when stacked up to comparable players with similar numbers, years of service and injury problems, who have made it into the Hall of Fame, he at the very least equals them all.
2 Played the game full throttle
The comparison between Neely and Lindros is probably the most appropriate. Both were the prototypical power forwards of their day. They played the game with a physical edge that initiated contact which inevitably exposes a player to injury. When you play the game with such ferocity and an attitude that prevented you from backing down as Neely and Lindros both did, it is difficult for your body to withstand the punishment over a long time. Another Hall of Famer in Peter Forsberg had a stellar career cut short due to injury and like Lindros had to endure a great deal of abuse because his great offensive talent, ability to protect the puck and willingness to use his size and strength to physically challenge opposing players. It was part of Eric's greatness in using his physicality that put him in position to get hurt and that fact can't be ignored.
1 Point Production
Hockey like most sports uses numbers and statistics to measure the value of players and compare them to contemporaries and players of past generations. For his career Lindros is more than a point a game player in the both the regular season and playoffs. There are many players in the Hall of Fame that were known as offensive players that can't lay claim to such consistency in point production. Lindros was the biggest offensive threat on many of the teams he played for and sometimes he was the only offensive threat. With opposing teams concentrating their best defensive players and shut down tactics to stop him, Lindros still produced goals and assists at an exceptional rate.
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