Big E turned Yelle's head

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Stephane Yelle was a 17-year-old kid when he got his first real glimpse of Eric Lindros.

The Calgary Flames veteran was starting his first season of major junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals. Lindros was killing time with his junior team while holding out for a trade in the NHL after being selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1991 draft.

"I was young -- and he was young, too -- but he was big," recalled Yelle yesterday of his brief time with The Big E, who is expected to announce his retirement today. "He was impressive. I remember just in practice how fast and how strong he was. It was impressive to be a 17-year-old and to witness that."

Just weeks before, Mike Keenan was witness to Lindros' coming out party on an international stage.

The current Flames bench boss was Canada head coach at the Canada Cup that summer when Lindros showed he was ready to compete against men by competing with reckless abandon and helping his team win gold. Lindros' addition to the squad wasn't without its critics.

"That was a little bit of a controversial move because he hadn't played in the (NHL) and he displaced some veterans who had," said Keenan.

"But he was a real contributor to us."

Injuries were as big a part of Lindros' 14-year NHL career as the 372 goals he scored. Concussions slowed him at his peak, and will add to the debate over whether the 34-year-old is a Hall-of-Famer.

"I think that displaced some of his effectiveness," Keenan said of the injuries, which were frequent because of the unabashed physical style Lindros played.

"He was a force. When he was on top of his game and healthy, he could do it in open ice. Unfortunately, the antithesis of that is that's how he pretty much ended some of the aspects of his career, when Scott Stevens hit him with the open-ice hit. Caught him with his head down."

That never happened in junior, said Yelle: "He was so much bigger than anybody else at the time."


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