VOORHEES – This might be the last big chance for Flyers fans to thank Eric Lindros for all he meant to the storied hockey franchise.
But when Lindros stands at center ice on Thursday night to watch his No. 88 jersey go into retirement and be hoisted to the rafters, it will provide him an occasion, too.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to say thanks,’’ said Lindros as he stopped by Flyers practice at the Skate Zone on Wednesday. “It’s a wonderful platform to come out and say thanks.
“You think about American cities. And going in and hearing. . .you kind of get a feel for their knowledge of the game. Having gone through expansion, the fans we have here in Philadelphia are knowledgeable. Part of that is having someone like (late announcer) Gene Hart, who got things going for so long. It’s a big deal to inform. He was a big part of that. It’s fun to play in front of fans who get it.’’
Lindros was recently inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame, but having his number placed alongside Bernie Parent (1), Mark Howe (2), Barry Ashbee (4), Bill Barber (7) and Bob Clarke (16) should be considered an even greater honor.
“I’m excited about tomorrow,’’ said Lindros, who’s also in the Hockey Hall of Fame. “It’s going to be special.’’
Eric is bringing his wife and three children to the ceremony and there should be a lot of cheering.
Any hard feelings between the organization and the former captain have faded as the years have gone by.
“I always keep thinking back to the spirit to what goes on around here when it’s time for a big game or playoff round,’’ Lindros said. “The farther you go in the playoffs, the intensity of it all. What occurs in restaurants, or going into grocery stores. People going up to you saying good luck. It adds up. You get into the rink and it’s just going bonkers in there. It’s a wonderful environment to play in.’’
Team president Paul Holmgren set the date for the event. It’s nice to have the Maple Leafs in town because Toronto is Lindros’ hometown. And it makes it easy for him to get out to Hershey for Friday night’s outdoor alumni game.
“The moment that Paul called and expressed plans, it just a deep feeling of being honored,’’ Lindros said. “I feel honored to be a part of it. The names that are up there in the rafters right now are incredible names and after tomorrow, it’s extremely special.
“It’s been a great year. Spectacular for us as a family. It gives you a chance to think back, reflect on the good times and how lucky you are to have played with certain guys. Coaches, general managers, in an organization like this. I thought we had some good teams. Great spot to play, wonderful fans.’’
A drive down Haddonfield-Berlin Road in Voorhees brought back memories.