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Hall of Famer Lindros loves hockey as much as ever

TORONTO Eric Lindros revolutionized hockey, combining power with finesse, speed with controlled rage, grace with grit. After receiving his Hall of Fame ring Friday, the former Flyers star center unknowingly simplified his journey to hockey immortality by talking about his deep admiration for the sport, one he still plays twice a week.

TORONTO -- Eric Lindros revolutionized hockey, combining power with finesse, speed with controlled rage, grace with grit.

After receiving his Hall of Fame ring Friday, the former Flyers star center unknowingly simplified his journey to hockey immortality by talking about his deep admiration for the sport, one he still plays twice a week.

"I enjoy the action of it. I enjoy the rinks. I enjoy the ice and the sounds," he said. "I enjoy the clink of a post, the feeling of putting the puck past the goaltender and seeing the red light go on."

He voice was filled with passion, filled with the joy of a 5-year-old who had just been asked to play in his first pickup game.

"It's quick, it's intense, it's graceful at times and really ungraceful at times," added Lindros, 43, who, while growing up in Toronto, used to have Mark Messier's poster hanging o his bedroom wall. "It's the whole package."n

So, of course, was Lindros, which is why the Big E will go into the Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies Monday in Toronto. Onetime Flyers coach Pat Quinn, who died in 2014, and former NHL stars Rogie Vachon and Sergei Makarov will also be inducted.

Lindros will bring an entourage. "We have more people coming here than we had at our wedding, I think," he said with a smile.

During a career shortened by numerous concussions, Lindros played in just 760 games. He played more than 70 games only four times in his 13-year career, which is probably why he was bypassed six times for the Hall of Fame.

"Sometimes it takes a couple years, sometimes it takes 30," Lindros said without a trace of bitterness. "But when it's all said and done, we're all here."

After being drafted No. 1 overall by Quebec in 1991 and refusing to play for the Nordiques, Lindros was sent to the Flyers in a blockbuster deal. He dominated the 1990s and finished his career with 865 points, including 372 goals, in 760 games. That computes to 1.138 points per game, 19th in NHL history. He averaged 1.36 points per game with the Flyers, by far the best in franchise history.

Lindros' calling card was the fearless way he played the game, dishing out punishment and also absorbing it. He said his career would have lasted longer if he had played differently.

"Looking back, I wish I wasn't quite as physical," admitted Lindros, who spent eight of his 13 seasons with the Flyers and retired from the NHL when he was 34. "I wish I had pulled it back about 25 percent and saved some of that. . . . A collision is a collision and it takes a toll on bodies."

'Sensitive guy'

Other than his family members, perhaps no one knows Lindros better than Tim Thompson, a Toronto filmmaker. They have been friends since 1987, high school classmates, and roommates during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.

They are still close, though they don't see each other as much because of their hectic schedules.

"But when we get together, we just pick up where we left off," Thompson said after unveiling a heartfelt video he created on Lindros at a hockey question-and-answer event in Toronto on Thursday night.

"Eric was, and is to this day, the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back," said Thompson, a CBC Sports videographer and an independent filmmaker. "I remember when were growing up, his dad would rent ice at 6 in the morning in North Toronto and we'd do drills before school. And we'd play street hockey at my house every day after school. We had a 20-minute walk - and this sums him up - and we walked to Mr. Sub this one day. We were 14 and hungry, and I can remember it like it happened yesterday. I had no money on me, and he knew it, and he says, 'Remember that $5 I owed you?' He didn't owe me $5, but that's just the kind of guy he was, and he bought me a sub. He was always there for his friends. He's very inclusive."

Lindros was deeply hurt when he and then-general manager Bob Clarke were in a well-publicized feud that got nasty toward the end of the big center's career with the Flyers. At the time, Clarke seethed over the interference of Lindros' parents.

"He's a pretty sensitive guy, so it was difficult for him," Thompson said. "He's a heart-on-his-sleeve guy and he wanted to bring a Stanley Cup to that city. He's very honest and true."

The fact Lindros and Clarke made amends about five years ago makes Monday's Hall of Fame celebration - which Clarke will attend - even more special, Thompson believes.

"It lifted a lot of weight off him when he went back" for the Winter Classic alumni game in 2011 "and the place went nuts," Thompson said.

Playoff thrills

One of the best parts of his career, Lindros said, was competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Flyers. He led them to the 1997 Finals.

"Playoff games in Philly are always exciting - whether it be at the Spectrum or the First Union Center, that city just gets [amped]," he said. "As soon as the playoffs hit there, it's jacked up and a lot of fun to be a part of that group."

He still plays hockey twice a week in Toronto, which is where he grew up.

"I still love the game. I get around and chip in a few here and there," he said. "Play as long as you can."

It's not an organized men's league. "Just a bunch of guys get together and you pick up a dark jersey or a white jersey. That's how you pick teams; it's that simple," he said. "There's no referees, no contact unless you're playing with some crazy guys who inadvertently drop in. But it's just a lot of fun."

On the ice, Lindros will always be in his element.

"It's skating and it's the atmosphere in the locker room, too. You've got guys from all different walks of life there and they come together because it's hockey," he said. "It's the common bond."

At age 10, Lindros said, his father transferred jobs and the family moved from London, Ontario, to Toronto. He began skating at the North Toronto Arena, one of the places where he now plays.

"Eric Anweiler has been there since I was 10, and he's still there," Lindros said of the rink manager. "Mario [Copelli] is still behind the skate sharpener or the Zamboni. The same guys. That's home. That's a pretty special feeling."

Lindros is married with three children: Carl Pierre, 21/2, and 14-month-old twins Ryan Paul and Sophie Rose. He is a partner in a clothing distribution company, does charity work for Easter Seals, and is involved in concussion research projects at an Ontario university.

He is thrilled to interrupt his busy schedule for Monday's validation of his greatness, but he admits it will be difficult to "put 30 years of hockey into five minutes" for his acceptance speech.

Lindros, who will return to the Wells Fargo Center for Captains Night on Feb. 2, said he has "so many people to thank. Geez, you play this game since you're five and there are just so many selfless people out there who spent time with you as a coach, trainer, the team managers, and obviously your parents. Their sacrifices are incredible."

He paused.

"There's a lot of luck that goes along with this," said the man who was a six-time all-star, the league's MVP in 1994-95, and a trailblazer of sorts for concussions and how they are handled in the NHL, "but there's a lot of support behind the scenes you get to look back on and truly appreciate."

Lindros is content these days. Family life, which includes playing "Wheels on the Bus" on his trumpet to his kids, agrees with him. He is self-deprecating, relaxed.

Asked when he last had concussion symptoms and if his memory had been affected, Lindros didn't hesitate.

"I'm always losing my keys," he cracked before adding he has "felt really good for a long time and I don't worry too much about it."