Eric Lindros has helped rebuild the NHL Players’ Association and for that his colleagues should be thankful.
But amid reports that Lindros will retire on Thursday, players owe Lindros a lot more than that when it comes to their debt of gratitude.
Rightly or wrongly, Lindros stood up for his rights, to the point where it made him look like an angry malcontent and the world’s biggest prima donna. Anyone who has spent any time with the man knows that Lindros is not that.
In reality, Lindros is thoughtful, insightful and very intelligent. Once he reaches a comfort level with a person, he can be incredibly engaging and witty.
Did he receive some bad advice over the course of his career? You bet he did, but nobody could ever accuse Lindros of being timid or kowtowing to the wishes of those who held the levers of power in hockey.
Back in 1989, Lindros was drafted first overall by the Soo Greyhounds. Instead of giving in to the OHL and its tight-fisted owners, Lindros and his family refused to report to the Soo, effectively telling the Greyhounds what to do with their $50-a-week paycheck.
Even then, Lindros knew full well that he would be filling buildings wherever he played and making junior owners a lot of money, and if that was the case, he was going to do it on his terms, not theirs.
And in many ways, he emboldened at least the elite players who followed him. Largely because of the example set by Lindros, young teenagers and their families are no longer afraid to stand up to junior teams by saying, “Yes sir, nos sir, three bags full sir.”
More and more elite players are using the leverage they have to place themselves in situations that are better suited to them and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Lindros again did it at the NHL level, spurning the Quebec Nordiques and forcing a trade to the Flyers. Once with the Flyers, he and his family crossed swords with management many times.
So maybe it’s not so surprising that Lindros will now be the ombudsman for the NHLPA.
Given what he has done for the players during his too-brief career, perhaps it’s only fitting that he will be the person who looks out for their interests after he officially retires.