SUN Hockey Pool

Lindros has no regrets

Eric Lindros, retiring from professional hockey, held his emotions mostly in check yesterday. (SUN...

Eric Lindros, retiring from professional hockey, held his emotions mostly in check yesterday. (SUN MEDIA/Ken Wightman)

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

Eric Lindros, the hockey player who wouldn't let anybody dictate where he would ply his trade, says he has one last on-ice option available to him.

"I've signed a five-year contract to play Monday nights in the Toronto area," the 34-year-old London native joked in his retirement announcement yesterday at the London Hunt and Country Club. "I enjoyed my days of playing and look forward to the next (chapter)."

Lindros is a front-runner to become the new ombudsman for the NHL Player Association. It's a job he wants and new union boss Paul Kelly was at his news conference -- and subsequent $5-million donation to the London Health Sciences Centre.

"It would be a privilege to represent the guys and I think it would be a great job," Lindros said. "You look at the history of guys like Ted Lindsay and Carl Brewer, and so many who stepped up for others in the association.

"The 30 player reps will have a conference call on Sunday and it will be one of the first issues (for them to discuss). I would like the chance to chase Paul around North America."

There were no public tears by the man calling it quits on one of the most turbulent and memorable careers in NHL history. Lindros boasted size, speed and skill and had the tools to become one of the most dominant players in the game before injuries mounted up to cut his career short.

"One thing I'd do more is stickhandle with my head up," he said with a grin, alluding to the concussion he suffered on a hit by Scott Stevens in the 2000 playoffs.

"I'm comfortable with this and I have been since I made the decision after the playoffs last year. I did my best. You can't tell when a shoulder is going to go and you need surgery and three months of rehabilitation.

"You don't know when you're going to tear your right knee or your wrist goes. You can't predict those things.

"I did the best I could in the time I had to play and I enjoyed every minute of it."

Lindros' retirement has started a heated debate on whether he belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame in three years when he becomes eligible. In his NHL career, the six-foot-four, 220-pound force had 372 goals and 865 points with 1,398 penalty minutes in 760 gamers with Philly, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars. He won the Hart Trophy in 1995 and was the fifth-fastest player in NHL history to reach 500 points.

"It would be a great honour but it's out of my hands," he said. "I played with the best. Against the best. I had a blast. Playing in the Canada Cup at age 18 was unbelievable. You walk into the dressing room and you're with all these great players and all the equipment is laid out in the stalls and you don't even have to look at the name plates above to see who it is because you know from the equipment.

"And then there's your (equipment) over in some corner."

Though he was pilloried for never winning the Stanley Cup, Lindros led the Flyers to the final in 1997 where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. "It was just a wave of red and we couldn't overcome it. They were a great team."

There is one regret Lindros would admit to in his career. He called one of his greatest joys playing international hockey for Canada and that made the loss to the Czech Republic in the semifinal of the first Olympics to admit NHL players a crushing blow.

"The only one I really think about is probably 1998. The shootout," he said. "I hit Dom (Czech goalie Dominik Hasek, then the post and it stayed out. If I'd like to have any one back, it's that one. We came back in 2002 and played great hockey to win but that one will stay with me. It stings."

Lindros wasn't about to apologize for snubbing Sault Ste. Marie, where he refused to report after being selected first in the OHL draft, and the rejection of the Quebec Nordiques after he was picked first in the NHL draft.

"I would've communicated my intentions better," he said of the Quebec situation. "The girl I'm dating is named Monique. Her dad's name is Jacques. I bought a fish camp in Quebec. It wasn't the organization. It was never about that."

Lindros' 1990-91 season with the Oshawa Generals is still one of the best in junior hockey history. That year, he played in 57 games, scored 71 goals and a league-leading 149 points while racking up 189 penalty minutes.

He called winning the Memorial Cup in 1990 his fondest junior hockey memory.

"I have only good things to say about Eric," long-time London Knights trainer Don Brankley said. "I had him for an all-star game and I believe the public persona he sometimes put up was a defence mechanism. If you got to know him, you loved him."

His decision-making was questioned by hockey fans, executives and even players.

"He went against the grain," Knights assistant coach Dave Gagner said. "When most of us came along, we pretty much had to follow the accepted system. Not all of us could do what he did. But he had the leverage to do what he wanted. I think he would be a great fit for the NHLPA. He fought for his rights."


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