Lost amid the hype of NHL pre-season chatter was Tuesday’s heartwarming news that former star NHLer Eric Lindros finalized what is believed to be the single-largest charitable contribution from any Canadian athlete in history – a $5-million donation to a London, Ont., hospital that helped him recover from various injuries during his playing career.
The gift continues what is shaping up to be a Hall-of-Fame post-playing career for Lindros, who is also doing yeoman’s work as the NHLPA’s ombudsman, attempting to improve the lives of players both active and retired.
And to me, Lindros’s work off the ice runs completely counter to those who’ve attempted to paint him as someone who has only had his own best interests in mind.
To his credit, Lindros has understood for a long time that he’d never be able to sway cynics quick to cast aspersions on his character. And that’s why he’s happy to let his benevolent actions speak for his spirit.
“You can’t control how certain people think,” Lindros told THN.com Wednesday. “Anything can be said, especially with the media’s technologies today; information travels so quickly and so much of it is opinion as opposed to fact.
“Really, I’m just pleased with where things are right now. Everything is pretty positive and that’s all you can ask.”
He had earned a ton of money by the time he retired from the game in 2007, but Lindros was like a lot of former players in that he wasn’t certain which direction he was headed in when he hung up his skates for good. Clearly, though, he has found his niche in working with a number of different organizations for the benefit of others.
“I didn’t know how everything was going to come together after I was done (playing),” Lindros said, “but I’m really happy to be in the situation I’m in. There are many people who had a hand along the way in allowing me to play hockey, and these are ways to give back.”
Besides the aid he has provided to the London Health Sciences Centre – which he will continue to work with beyond making the donation – Lindros plans to continue his duties with the NHLPA, acting as a conduit between union brass and membership to patch any cracks in the organization’s foundation that, under past regimes, had been permitted to grow into crater-sized holes.
“We’ve got a new group of leaders in (the NHLPA), and I think for the most part players should be very encouraged as to what’s been happening,” Lindros said. “The association now is so much bigger than what it was. It covers so many different areas – the marketing department is growing immensely; and the labor side is always first and foremost, in terms of looking after players’ rights and the (collective) bargaining agreement.
“There are just a lot of positives there. There are some great steps being made.”
Lindros heard about legendary Blackhawks star Bobby Hull’s recent lament that current players weren’t doing enough to help retired NHLers in dire need of assistance. And though he understands there’s work still ahead to reach Hull’s goal, he’s also cognizant of the great strides that have been made in that regard.
“To credit the current (players) right now, under the current CBA, not only do we give $1 million to (the group of) guys over the age of 65 every year to beef up their pensions, but we’re giving an extra million and hoping the league will match,” Lindros said. “It’s a start. It’s not perfect, but we’re making headway, and we’re going to be there to help out those in need.”
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays in the summer, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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