By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Eric Lindros has had a reputation for being incredibly hardheaded. Considering all the concussions he's suffered, though,you can forget about that evaluationat least on the ice. Another hit, and the career of the former All-Star, MVP, and all-round terror may be over. The problem: His whole life has been one big collision after another.
JANUARY 1974: At 11 months old, Eric gets his first stitches. In his authorized biography, he brags about being a kindergartner who beat up a third-grader: "Nothing like a good fight to secure your rung on the ladder." Younger brother Brett later says, "He'd beat on me. He was a frustrated guy. He was a little hyperactive as a kid, and he'd get so wired he'd lose control of himself, and it was like 'little brother speed bag.' "
NOVEMBER 1989: At age 16, Eric is already 6-4 and 200-plus pounds. His hero is Mark Messier (then at Edmonton, now with the Rangers). "Mess rules! Mark Messier rules," says the teen Eric. "I think he is the most feared hockey player in the world."
NOVEMBER 1992: Knee injury near start of his rookie year; misses nine games.
JANUARY 1993: Knee injury against Rangers; misses 12 games.
APRIL 1993: Already renowned for a nasty, hard-hitting game, Eric sharpens fighting skills under tutelage of Flyer conditioning coach Pat Croce (later president of the NBA 76ers). In one workout under Croce, Eric throws so many punches at a speed bag (simulating a hockey fight, he holds out his left arm and whales away with his right fist) that brother Brett steps in and says to him, "The scrap's over. It's history. The guy is down. He's unconscious. He's dead." Eric ignores him and keeps hammering at the little bag.
OCTOBER 1996: Pulled groin, misses 23 games.
MARCH 1998: Concussion, misses 18 games.
APRIL 1999: Punctured lung, misses seven games and playoffs.
MARCH 2000: Third concussion of the season.
MAY 2000: Fourth concussion of the season, his sixth in 27 months.
JUNE 2000: Still woozy. "He still has symptoms. I'm not going to say what they are," dad Carl says.
OCTOBER 2000: Carl tells an injury-prevention workshop in Ontario that athletes who have suffered concussions shouldn't be rushed back into action. He won't discuss Eric's concussions, but he does say that Brett had to prematurely retire from the NHL because he suffered so many concussions. Carl recalls that the blow that finally ended Brett's career was a collision on ice that didn't even involve his head. "It can be a subsequent mild blow that can do more damage than the original blow [if not completely healed]," Carl says. The dad says he wishes he'd known of that possibility at the time. Carl praises Ontario hockey officials for establishing major penalties for deliberate hits to the head.