Eric Lindros knew exactly what day and time the Hockey Hall of Fame would call. He was just hoping his phone would ring this time after six years of silence.
Rogie Vachon had given up hoping after 30-plus years of eligibility. And when his moment came, Sergei Makarov exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, the wait is over!”
The waiting ended for Lindros, Vachon and Makarov on Monday as they were elected as part of the class of 2016 along with the late coach and executive Pat Quinn. With no first-time eligible players worthy of consideration, they were able to go from the longtime waiting room into the hall.
Because concussions and other injuries cut his career short, Lindros was passed over for the honor six previous times. But his Hart Trophy-winning season as NHL MVP with the Flyers in 1995, his 865 points in 760 games, and his overall dominance and international success ended up being too much to keep him out.
Lindros said he hasn’t stopped smiling since getting the call from Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald while driving down the highway in Ontario.
“It was six years and it was a bit of time, but I guess you could turn around and say I’m in the Hall forever going forward,” Lindros said. “I think there’s sometimes you get thinking back and wondering, `What if?’ I think when it’s all said and done, it’s an honor. It feels full circle.”
Lindros was a junior hockey star and the No. 1 pick of the Quebec Nordiques in 1991 but refused to sign, something he said Monday he didn’t regret. Sent to Philadelphia as part of one of the biggest trades in NHL history, Lindros became one of the best players of his era with an unusual blend of physicality and production. He led the Flyers to the 1997 Stanley Cup Final as part of the “Legion of Doom” line with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg.
Friction with teammates and management dotted Lindros’ career, and he never won the Stanley Cup.
“It’s one thing you look back on,” Lindros said. “There’s a void there. I still have a lot to look back on and be thankful for being on different teams.”
Lindros played for the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars at the end of his career. He also won two world junior gold medals and Olympic gold in 2002 representing Canada in Salt Lake City.
Makarov was more than a point-a-game scorer for the Soviet national team as part of the famed KLM line with Vladimir Krutov and 2008 Hall of Fame inductee Igor Larionov. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year with Calgary in 1991 and put up 384 points in 424 games with the Flames, San Jose Sharks and Stars, once Russian players were able to play in the NHL.
“He had the fastest side-to-side movements,” McDonald said of Makarov. “You’d think you have him lined up and he’d (go by) and do it at top speed. He would never lose the puck.”
Vachon won the Vezina Trophy with the Canadiens in 1967-68 and was part of three Cup-champion teams in Montreal. He went on to play with the Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins and finished with 355 victories.
Because he has been eligible for three decades, Vachon said he stopped waiting for the call from the Hall of Fame. But the 70-year-old still remembered his first NHL save.
“My first shot in the NHL was a breakaway from Gordie Howe from the blue line in,” Vachon said of the Hall of Famer who died just two weeks ago. “I don’t know if I closed my eyes when he shot, but I stopped him and that probably kept me in the league for 16 years.”
Quinn led Lindros and Canada to the gold medal at the 2002 Olympics and coached the 1979-80 Flyers team that went a record 35 consecutive games without a loss. His daughter, Kalli, said Quinn never thought about making the Hall of Fame, despite being its chairman at the time of his death in November 2014.
“He would be looking at the three player inductees today and say, `How was I selected?”‘ Kalli Quinn said. “This is icing on the cake.”
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