Eric Lindros has seen it from both sides.
The six-foot-four, 240-pounder earned his lunch during his time in the NHL by using his massive frame and furious physicality to create space. Pairing his willingness and ability to lay the body with a natural goal-scoring and playmaking touch, Lindros went on to record 861 points in just 760 career games.
Taking as many big checks as he dished out over his 14-year NHL stint, however, took a toll on The Big E and was the major factor leading to his early retirement and steep decline in production late in No. 88’s career.
Last week at the See The Light concussion symposium in London, Ontario, Lindros made clear his current feelings on physicality in the game while suggesting a somewhat surprising and very radical rule change that could drastically reduce concussion rates and traumatic brain injuries.
Lindros said it’s time for the National Hockey League to completely remove body contact.
“Let’s get right to it. You talk about me playing. I love hockey and I continue playing hockey. But it’s funny — the hockey I was playing all those years was really physical, and I have just as much fun (these days), but we don’t run into one another. We’re still having as much fun, the same enjoyment of it,” Lindros said, according to Michael Traikos of The National Post.
“We know concussions are down in a league without contact.”
It isn’t the first time the former Flyers, Rangers, Stars and Maple Leafs forward has requested a call to action from Gary Bettman and the NHL. In an interview posted by the Toronto Sun in February, Lindros called on the league to provide increased funding to basic concussion research:
Also speaking up on the subject was fellow Hall of Famer and outspoken concussion advocate Ken Dryden, who researched the topic heavily for his 2017 book titles “The Life and Death of Steve Montador”, and the “Future of Hockey”. The former NHL netminder also put Gary Bettman to the coals a few months ago while suggesting all headshots should be penalized severely and eliminated from the game.
Dryden elaborated on why the constantly-changing pace of the game makes the risk of concussions now greater than ever before, especially compared to the 40s, 50s and 60s.
“There’s all kinds of space, there’s all kinds of time. There are many fewer collisions … There was no such phrase of finishing your check. That was the nature of the game. As the years have gone on, the shifts have shortened and the speed has increased.”
By comparison, today’s game is a “relay race,” said Dryden. “You pass the baton to the next player and it’s another 38 (second shift). For 60 seconds, you don’t stop. It means there’s much less time, much less space and much more collisions and much more forceful collisions,” he said, according to Traikos.
The comments of both former players came on the same day the NHLPA announced a joint donation of $3.125 million would allocated towards better understanding concussion and brain injuries.
It was Lindros himself who approached the Players’ Association in 2015 with a pitch to begin a fundraising challenge for concussion research.