Skip to main content

The "Stockholm syndrome" entered the language after a 1973 event when women hostages held by bank robbers for six days in the Swedish capital consorted with their captors. Psychologists have used the term since then to describe the intense attachment that sometimes grows between captors and captives. A promising new area of exploration opened up in recent weeks as it became clear that an entire city was being held hostage by a handful of people.

In this case, however, an attachment between hostages and keepers seems unlikely. The Eric Lindros saga has been played out endlessly in Toronto's newspapers. The bruising hockey player with an eggshell for a skull wants to play for the Maple Leafs and has been unwise enough to talk about it publicly. The Philadelphia Flyers, the team that holds his playing rights, want to see his broad shoulders going out the door, but they are determined to get the most they can for him in a trade.

It has seemed that everyone in the Maple Leafs' employ -- except perhaps the locker-room attendants -- has been dangled as trade bait. The trade is said to have collapsed for the moment, but no one will say it cannot be revived. You get a very clear sense that Philadelphia's general manager, Bob Clarke, has enjoyed the game, and why wouldn't he? The Leafs haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1967, and desperate fans are looking for a saviour. This has put enormous pressure on Leafs management, and Mr. Clarke knows it.

The current edition of the Leafs began the season with enormous hopes that this would be the year their 33-year drought would end. And, indeed, in late November, when Mr. Lindros first expressed his desire to play in Toronto, the team was second in its division. Since then, they've become a mediocre team in danger of missing the playoffs, and the players have begun openly complaining that the Lindros gavotte has been a distraction.

The final insult to fans will come if the Leafs acquire Mr. Lindros and make the playoffs. The team announced this week that ticket prices would skyrocket in the post-season, with a $29 purple seat selling for $90 by the fourth round and a $145 gold or platinum ticket going for a stratospheric $380. Talk about being held hostage.