I think I was six when I received what was at that point the best Christmas gift I could've imagined: A #88 Philadelphia Flyers jersey.
Eric Lindros was the reason I became a hockey fan and later a hockey player. My Dad passed down the team: He had Bobby Clarke and I had Eric Lindros.
He was the captain of my favorite team and the center for the best line in hockey. They even had a cool nickname: "The Legion of Doom."
For my eighth birthday, my Dad took me to Tampa to see Lindros and the Flyers play against the Lightning. To this day, I remember watching Lindros seem impossibly quick for a guy that stood 6'4".
In 1997 Lindros led my beloved Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. The “Legion of Doom” had destroyed everyone in the Eastern Conference, but they faltered when they met the Detroit Red Wings and the “Legion of Broom.”
I figured nothing could hurt big #88, but after the concussion I began to have my doubts and fears.
In 2000 another concussion came. The Flyers carried on valiantly, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals without Lindros. Then the whispers: He's coming back!
Lindros returned for game six, but scored the only goal in a 2-1 loss.
In my top five worst sports memories, game seven probably ranks second. Eric Lindros was skating up the middle with his head down and collapsed when he was hit. He looked like a rag doll and then lay motionless with another concussion.
That off-season was my loss of innocence in sport. I learned that Eric had refused to play for his junior league team to force a trade. He also refused to play for the NHL team that drafted him and forced a trade to Philadelphia. Now he was forcing a trade away from us, the fans that loved him.
Lindros and Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke had been growing apart for some time. They had been so tight, but now Lindros was stripped of his captaincy and Clarke went out of his way to throw it in Lindros' face.
Finally, Clarke traded him to New York. The fans turned against the one-time golden child who could do no wrong.
I haven't thought about Lindros in years. The last thing I remember about him was a game when the Flyers went to New York. Lindros scored a hat trick against his former team.
My favorite Eric Lindros moment wasn't a goal or a pass, a win or a loss. It was a hit in a game against a forgotten team.
Eric went into the corner digging for the puck and collided against the glass. He burst through it like it was paper and ended up in the lap of a surprised fan.
Unfazed, he nonchalantly picked up a kernel of the popcorn he had scattered across the section and popped it in his mouth. He said hello to the young fan and struck up a conversation.