Did he think, would he ever have thought, given the way things ended for him in Philly, that he would be back here like this, to such a warm welcome and massive spectacle, to have his jersey retired?
“No. Did you?”
But here we are. Last night was the night, finally, when the Flyers retired Eric Lindros’s number. And boy was it a jam packed evening.
The festivities started—for us anyway—with a press conference during which Lindros addressed a room full of the media folks. He talked candidly about his time in Philadelphia, and what it meant to be back to him, how special this was. Meanwhile, the video boards played highlights and posed trivia questions to the slowly filling stands, as excited fans began to trickle in.
From here, as the lights dropped at 7:00, we were met with a stunning video montage, complete with highlights of his play and words of praise from a who’s who of talking heads, from Lindros’s former teammates and contemporaries from across the league.
After the videos closed out, the ceremonies continued in much the way that ceremonies do—take two parts speeches by Paul Holmgren and Lindros on innovation, growth, and influence, add a generous amount fan cheering and chatter, sprinkle in a warm welcome to the Legion of Doom and the Lindros family, and finish with a banner rising into the rafters, and you’ve got history, and number 88 has a new home.
It was a stunning night of remembrance and nostalgia, but what was the most striking was how the emphasis did not remain therein.
Of course, there was more than a fair bit of mention and tribute to Lindros’s career, the success of the team during his time with the organization, and the way he influenced and altered the way the game was changed forever. But Lindros himself didn’t seem satisfied to simply reminisce on days gone by, and made particular note to shift the focus onto the future.
Something he kept coming back to was how special it was, the way he and his family were treated, coming back to Philly, seeing all the 88 shirts in the crowd, and getting to skate on the Wells Fargo Center ice with his son, how he would carry these memories with him for a very long time to come.
But he was also unselfish in making nods to the future—in the pre-game press conference, he spoke about the state of concussion diagnosis and understanding of the implications of head injuries. He said it plainly, we’re not even close to where we need to be in this area. And he made a note of what’s left to be done, an implorement to perhaps the league, perhaps just any of those with the means, to do the work and invest in the research that’s needed to take the next step to protect current and future players.
And this seems, above all, the real point. The night was to honor a man who not only changed the game, but continues to look to change the game, long after his playing days have come to an end. His name and number hang in the rafters, watching over the people of the city he touched, the play of the game he changed, and that he continues to seek to aid and influence in both the near and distant future.