I was born in the fall of 1992 and, if family photo albums are to be believed, spent a number of nights as a toddler at NHL games in Winnipeg, Calgary, and at one of those terrible ad hoc arenas in Tampa. But my first real memory of the league is Game 6 of the ‘99 Stanley Cup final, with Belfour and Hasek and Hull. My second memory is from a year later. It’s the image of Eric Lindros crumpled on the ice after that hit from Scott Stevens.
I don’t remember Lindros the prospect, or Lindros the dominant power forward who threatened to reshape the game. I only remember Eric Lindros decaying before my eyes: slumped, concussed, losing his Flyers captaincy, sparring with Bobby Clarke in the newspaper, bleeding out in a bathtub in Nashville.
The idea for this piece came late last year, when I finally read La Guerre, Yes Sir! For an expat, anglo-Canadian, I found it to be an incredibly clear distillation. When I was visiting home, I found the copy of The Hockey Sweater I read constantly as a kid. I couldn’t shake what I’d come to know about a young Eric Lindros, yanked into centuries-old battles of culture and religion and language and autonomy. The catalyst for Eric’s holdout might have been simply economic, or might have had to do with the Lindros family’s relationship to the Nordiques ownership, sure. But that’s the point: the chasm between anglo and franco is deep and, without much warning, can swallow everything else whole.
I was at the draft two summers ago, in Buffalo, when the league announced that it was expanding into Vegas. They didn’t mention Quebec.