Eric Lindros. He was supposed to be the next great thing. He was supposed to be a monstrous Gretzky or Lemieux. He was supposed to be better than Mark Messier. Maybe he was the second coming of Gordie Howe?
Injuries prevented Lindros from fulfilling that destiny. And controversies prevented many people from ever liking him. He was easy to not like.
Yet he was always a favorite of mine.
My first real exposure to Eric Lindros came in the 1991 Canada Cup. Though he was just 18 and still in junior hockey, the giant phenom came in and played an important role in the Canadian victory. Lindros scored 3 goals and 5 points in 8 games, but more importantly physically intimidated the opposition as a teenager.
Many remember this man-child crunching Ulf Samuelsson - one of the NHL's toughest and dirtiest defensemen - sending him home early.
But it was a different hit that I vividly remember. And Lindros was the receiver on this hit.
Team USA's Joel Otto - another monster who earned a NHL living by slaying Messier in the Battle of Alberta - lined Lindros up behind the Canadian net. Lindros did not see him coming until the final second, yet he braced for impact just in time. Lindros' progress was stopped, but he swatted Otto away. The giant Otto crashed backward to the ice.
It was quite the debut for the most hyped hockey prospect not named Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky to that point in history.
Lindros' career did not go according to plan, yet it concludes later this year as he is finally, and rightfully, included in the Hockey Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players in the history of hockey.