How Eric Lindros Helped Spark a Culture Change in the NHL

How Eric Lindros Helped Spark a Culture Change in the NHL

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It was 1998 when Eric Lindros appeared on the cover of the inaugural
issue of ESPN the Magazine along with Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez, and Kordell
Stewart. They were dubbed “the Next Ones”in their respective sports.

The mag is celebrating its 15th year in existence with their
May 13th issue, and in their look back on Lindros, David Fleming finds No. 88
did change hockey and sports as we know them – just not in the way we imagined.
Fleming details the superstar center’s history with concussions, and how his once
highly-criticized actions helped affect change in the way concussions are
viewed and handled.

Last season about 90 NHL players
(or 13 percent of the league) missed games with concussions, including former
playoff MVP Jonathan
Toews. The simple truth is that there may not be a way to wipe out
concussions completely in violent contact sports like football and hockey. So
what Lindros did was the next best thing: He stood up to hockey's insidious
play-through-it culture. As a result, players today will tell you they feel
less obligated to hide or downplay a brain injury or postconcussion symptoms --
a mindset that protects them far more than any helmet or rule ever could.

"It's unfortunate what Lindros
dealt with throughout his career," says Maple Leafs defenseman
John-Michael Liles, who missed 16 games in 2011-12 following a concussion.
"But I think that one of the things everyone knows now, if there's a possibility
that you got your bell rung pretty well, it's, 'Hey, we need to take a couple
of days and see.' "

"Not so crazy now, was
I?" Lindros says, before catching himself. "But you want to give me
credit? I hate the idea of that more than anything. That poster boy s -- ? No.
No thanks."

A lot of the story you already know. Lindros suffered
multiple concussions during his time with the Flyers, which at the time was a
common condition for athletes to play through. His refusal to do so created a
rift both with fans and inside the organization.

The profile also covers some aspects that are not so widely publicized,
including details of Lindros’ life after hockey. He’s tried to remain involved
in the battle, donating millions for research and speaking to medical students
about his first-hand experiences. It doesn’t always comes as easily for Lindros
as things seemed to on the ice, as he also discussed some disappointment from
his time working hand-in-hand with the NHLPA on the issue.

The good news is Lindros himself isn’t experiencing
long-term effects associated with brain injuries, and is described as strong
and sharp. Actually, he looked like he could’ve put on a uniform and helped the
Flyers at the Winter Classic Alumni Game in 2011.

We don’t talk about it often here, but obviously concussions
have been at the forefront in the NHL and NFL especially for a few years now.
Some of the research is still very new, but there is no escaping the fact that
these sports are going to continue to change and grow over the next few years
and decades. It’s not how Lindros wants to or should be remembered, but he
helped spark the movement.

>> Lindros redefined NHL’s culture of playing through injuries
[ESPN]

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Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Nerlens Noel was essentially the beginning of The Process.

Acquired in a draft day trade with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013, Noel was the last player remaining of those who were on the team when Brett Brown took over as head coach of the Sixers. Drafted No. 6 overall out of Kentucky, Noel missed the entire 2013-14 season recovering from a torn ACL.

That gave Brown the opportunity to work closely with Noel, most notably on his shot.

"Personally, I spent a lot of time with him," Brown said pregame Friday. "To have a whole year where you could help grow his shot. And talk about a total rebuild."

Noel on Thursday was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a top-18 protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. The return doesn't seem great, but there are larger factors at play.

Noel is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer. With the emergence of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on the roster, the center position was (and still is, frankly) crowded. The chances of the Sixers' retaining Noel weren't great. Especially if a team had signed him to an exorbitant offer sheet.

Brown was naturally close to Noel, but understands the business side of the decision.

"I'm happy for him in my heart of hearts," Brown said. "[The Mavericks] have brought him in to grow him to try to be a starting center. That does equal a commensurate paycheck. He will be rewarded if that's the way it plays out.

"That wasn't gonna happen here. It wasn't gonna happen here. And so when you really study salary caps, really study design of teams and really study how to grow a program so you're not caught positionally, it was gonna be hard to allocate that amount of money to a five spot."

Brown got some more tough news when he learned No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons won't play this season. A scan taken Thursday revealed that Simmons' Jones fracture, suffered in early October on the last day of training camp, has not fully healed (see story).

Brown, being the consummate optimist, brought up his experience with Noel in is his rookie season of how a player can still develop despite not getting on the court.

"I'm disappointed for lots of reasons that he isn't going to be able to play," Brown said. "I played text tag with him as he was going to the scan. I felt like when your wife is having a baby, pacing around, wondering, 'What's gonna happen? What's the result of the scan? What's it gonna be? What's it gonna be?' I don't mean to get too dramatic, but there's a level of anxiety that you wonder, 'What is the result gonna say?' And when it came back with the result, it caught me off guard. It really wasn't something personally I was expecting."

Sixers president of basketball operation Bryan Colangelo addressed the media Friday to disclose the news on Simmons. He also explained his thinking behind the Noel trade, which mostly hinged on Noel's impending restricted free-agent status (see story).

Brown was sad to see one of his original developmental projects go, but understood the business side of the decision.                     

"I thought he did a really good job," Brown said of Colangelo's press conference. "That is the truth. So it's connected with emotion and reality that we say goodbye to Nerlens."