For one morning, Eric Lindros was one of the guys again.
The former Flyers captain took the ice Thursday to participate in Philadelphia's morning skate at Air Canada Centre. Not only did he participate in drills, he also took some good-natured ribbing about his conditioning — as sure of sign as any he was part of a pro sports team again.
“I think they need to get him a bigger helmet out there, his head looked pretty scrunched in there,” said Flyers forward Scott Hartnell.
The invitation to the skate came directly from Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.
It was another sign that the fence has been mended between Lindros and the Flyers organization, which had an often-turbulent relationship during his playing days that ended on poor terms. But he was fully embraced during the Winter Classic earlier this season and received the loudest ovation from fans during the alumni game.
Lindros retired in 2007 and still looks like a commanding presence on the ice. Some of the Flyers felt he could make a comeback at age 39.
“If I can play, why not? He's younger than me,” said forward Jaromir Jagr, who is 40. “He would have to lose some pounds. Maybe 20. But it's easy to do.”
There are no plans for that.
Lindros seems completely at ease with life after hockey, a sport he dominated so thoroughly in junior that he was hailed as the sport's next superstar. Injuries kept him from reaching that potential, although he did have a tremendous run early in his career with the Flyers and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1995.
All these years later, he still loves to play.
“Any time you can wake up and enter this building and go have some fun on the ice, it is a blast,” said Lindros. “What brings everyone together is the game of hockey and the purity of the sport. ... It's wonderful around here.”
His presence brought a clear shot of excitement to the Flyers prior to their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rookie forward Zac Rinaldo grew up a huge fan of the man known as “The Big E” — he'd always play video games with No. 88 — and showed some nerves while skating on the same ice surface as him.
“Zac couldn't make a pass he was so excited,” said forward Max Talbot. “He's going to get his stick signed and everything.”
Added Jagr: “It doesn't surprise me with this organization, it's a family organization and everybody is friendly. He is a big part of the Philadelphia Flyers history. It's great to see it.”
Lindros wore a wide grin throughout the skate and remained on the ice long after the Flyers regulars had showered and left. It was a trip down memory lane.
Unlike many other players who have left the sport, he doesn't miss very much about the life he once had.
“I was ready to move on,” said Lindros. “I think when you get older too you realize that there's more to life than going out and playing the game. The game is fantastic, but there's many more things to do.
“I've had the opportunity to explore a few different areas and tributaries from what's spilled off from the game. I've enjoyed it, things are coming along nicely. I'm a fortunate guy.”