Eric Lindros was the perfect superstar at the perfect time for me. I was too young to appreciate Randall Cunningham’s freakish athleticism. Darren Daulton was Hall of Fame handsome but often injured—plus, the Phillies were god-awful, save for 1993. And Allen Iverson had yet to be drafted by the Sixers.
Previous generations had Dr. J, Schmidt, Carlton and Clarke. I needed a Philadelphia sports hero to call my own—and Lindros was the guy. On Jan. 18, the Flyers will retire his No. 88 jersey in a special ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center.
It helped that Lindros had curly brown hair, thick eyebrows and a square jaw. Only five years older than me, he was a 6-foot-4 mountain of a man. He kicked this soon-to-be teenage girl’s passion for Philadelphia sports—and boys—into overdrive.
Starting with Lindros’ rookie season in 1992, I took what little allowance I had and invested heavily in him, from hockey cards to magazines with his face on the cover to posters that hung on the walls closest to my bed. I was dreaming of Eric … and Stanley Cups.
Lindros was dubbed “The Next One” due to his mix of size and skill. He was going to “redefine the game.” My schoolgirl crush for the linebacker on skates put me in conflict with my sports cynicism. When the opposing team’s players were announced, I’d yell, “Sucks!” I argued with adults about players I thought should be traded and coaches who deserved to be fired.
But when it came to the Flyers and Lindros, I was blinded by love. I refused to spew insults in “my” Eric’s direction. I made excuses for the Flyers not fulfilling their ultimate goal … They don’t have an elite goalie. The Devils’ trap defense wasn’t fair.
My own breakup with Lindros was more civil than the one he had with the Flyers organization. By the end of the 2000 season, I knew it was over—and not because of the Scott Stevens hit or his lowest-ever point production for the team. I wasn’t a starstruck teenager anymore, writing “fan fiction” in a leopard-print journal about a dalliance with Lindros during his post-career search for love. I didn’t have time for fantasy or the hope of a superstar saving us … Where have you gone, Eric Lindros / Our city turns its Cup-starved eyes to you / Woo woo woo.
Instead, I focused on college and my real-life boyfriend. There wasn’t a breakup bonfire. I just placed all my memorabilia into an orange tote marked “Lindros” and put it in the attic.
When the Flyers retire Lindros’ 88. I hope to be there, staring up at the rafters with the same admiration I had as a teen. You never forget your first sports love.
Katie Kohler plans to pull out her black 88 Lindros jersey for “her” Eric’s big night. Visit www.katiekohler.com.