Lindros risking another comeback

By Jeff Bromley
The news that Eric Lindros has been cleared to make his return to NHL hockey after suffering the sixth concussion of his oft-injured career is disturbing at best. Not that any hockey fan worth his or her weight in pucks wouldn’t salivate at the site of the big, hulking center returning to the game that he loves, it comes down to the question of priorities.

In his career, Eric Lindros has been the center of attention. Whether it’s coming out of junior as the highly touted ‘Next One’ or admittedly refusing to report to the Quebec Nordiques both when and after the club drafted him first overall in 1990, being traded to two different teams at the same time (New York Rangers and Philadelphia), there definitely hasn’t been any shortage of copy or water-cooler talk on the big ‘E’ since he emerged as a hockey force over ten years ago. Now Lindros suffers attention of another kind, mostly of the medical variety. In a drama that’s playing out eerily similar to that of the fate of Eric’s younger brother Brett, who had to retire after two seasons with the New York Islanders due to Post-Concussion syndrome the elder Lindros is tempting fate by refusing to succumb to the many knocks to the noggin he has suffered in his nine-year career.

The strained relationship that has developed between himself and the Philadelphia Flyers or more appropriately, Flyers G.M. Bob Clarke has deteriorated to such a state that Lindros is openly courting the Toronto Maple Leafs to trade for the rights to sign him. A restricted free-agent, the talks between the Leafs and Flyers are moving, albeit at a slow pace as there seems to be a problem as to what Lindros’ worth is valued at. Clarke is taking a hardline stance in accommodating Lindros’ desire to become a Leaf, stating in an interview Elliot Friedman of The Score network that “I don’t care about Eric Lindros. I care about the Philadelphia Flyers and in dealing him, I will do the best for the hockey club.” Clearly you can see that the love between the two in noticeably absent.

Depending how you look at it, it seems that the biggest issue surrounding Lindros’ return is not that he’s actually returning to the game when nobody expected him but rather his devalued worth via the trade market. Being tied to the Flyers through the NHL’s misnomer free agency rules, a snowball has a better fighting chance in Hades than another NHL club signing the 6’5″, 230lb Lindros to an offer sheet. Which would surrender that club’s next five years worth of first round draft picks, a heady price for damaged goods.

So what is Lindos’ worth and what’s he worth to the Leafs? More than likely the deal will revolve around prospects and draft picks rather than a player off the Leaf’s’ roster. The fact of the matter is that Lindros will have to prove himself or rather his health will have to, and that will be the hinge to any deal for the big forward, with the scale of worth graduating relating directly to how durable Lindros happens to be. The question that remains is why? Why, after so many head injuries, and maladies in general that included a collapsed lung that could have killed him if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of teammate Keith Jones, would he risk his future life after hockey all in the name of playing the game? Is the burning desire to win a Stanley Cup that great that he would risk everything just to drink from hockey’s holy chalice? It has to be the only reason that Lindros desires to return to the game. Money couldn’t and shouldn’t be an issue. Even with the most reckless of spending habits, Lindros has enough greenbacks to last him well into three lifetimes.

It’s not that the majority of hockey fans wouldn’t want Lindros to succeed in his comeback. It’s just that Eric Lindros got to the NHL bases on his skill wrapped around his size. His physicality within the game compliments his skill. Can that aspect of his game ever come into play again due to the risk?

The quest for the silver jug is the overwhelmingly main reason that Canadian kids play the game of hockey. But is the satisfaction of the trophy worth risking one’s healthy future? When Eric Lindros returns to the game of hockey in the coming days, I’m hoping that we won’t find out.