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|Posted: Sun Nov 13th, 2016 03:09 am||
|TORONTO - Eric Lindros had just received his Hockey Hall of Fame ring and was feeling particularly buoyant.
''Check it out!'' he said, raising his left hand and shiny new ring to show to the television camera. ''Check it out!''
Lindros' long Hall of Fame wait is over.
Passed over six times for entry into the shrine, the now 43-year-old will finally get his plaque, honored along with Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov and the late Pat Quinn.
''It's just an honor,'' Lindros said Friday. ''Look at the names on the plaques. Just being in here. Jeez, it's the cream of the crop. It's a real honor to be part of this.''
Living in the Toronto area with his wife and three kids, Lindros said he'd driven by the Hall numerous times and visited occasionally for charity events. But he'd yet to take a serious walk through the place. He will now, and what he'll see is his face right there among the greats.
For years after his career ended in 2007, the argument against Lindros entering the Hall was two-fold. For one, he played only 760 regular- season games in a career cut short from concussions. He also failed to win a Stanley Cup, swept in the 1997 final by the Detroit Red Wings while still a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
When healthy he was a truly dominant force, a rare combination of size, skill, and power. He was the kind of player the game had never seen and probably hasn't since. Lindros finished with 372 goals and 865 points, tucked inside the top 20 in points per-game (1.14). He also was a six-time All-Star and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP as a 22-year-old in 1995 after posting 29 goals and 70 points in 46 games.
Lindros was the No. 1 overall pick of the Quebec Nordiques in 1991, but refused to play there. He was eventually dealt to the Flyers in a swap that included another future Hall of Famer, Peter Forsberg.
Lindros said he was well aware of the Hall of Fame's annual summer selection date for inductees, each year passing by without entry. Earlier this past summer he heard from a former New York Rangers staffer who wondered whether he'd heard anything yet from the Hall about the class of 2016.
''No,'' Lindros replied.
He did get the call from Hall chairman Lanny McDonald a short while later while driving north on Highway 11 in Ontario with his family.
''It truly is an honor,'' he said.
It also took a while for Vachon, Makarov, and Quinn to take their places in the Hall.
A three-time Cup-winning goalie with the Montreal Canadiens who later starred for Los Angeles, Vachon last played in the NHL in 1982. Makarov's last NHL game came with the San Jose Sharks in 1997. He enjoyed his best years in Russia, leading the Soviet league in scoring for nine seasons.
Quinn, who died two years ago, last coached in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers in 2010, one of his five stints as an NHL head coach. Perhaps his most notable hockey achievement came outside the league, guiding Canada's men's hockey team in 2002 to their first Olympic gold medal in 50 years.
When McDonald called Vachon to tell him was finally in this past summer, Vachon replied: ''I'm in what?''
''It doesn't get any better than this,'' Vachon said Friday.
The long wait was over for all.
''Take whatever path you want,'' Lindros said. ''We're here forever. All of us.''