TORONTO — The debate is over. Eric Lindros will finally get his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Passed over six times before, the long-time Philadelphia Flyers captain was announced as one of four nominees for this year's Hall of Fame induction class, joined by the late Pat Quinn, goaltender Rogie Vachon and Russian winger Sergei Makarov.
"It was six years and it was a bit of time, but I guess you can turn around and say I'm in the Hall forever going forward," Lindros said on a conference call after the announcement.
Lindros was driving north on Highway 11 in Ontario with his family when he got the call from Lanny McDonald, the Hall of Fame chairman.
He hasn't stopped smiling since and for good reason.
This was a day that looked more and more unlikely to happen. Lindros was a hotly debated candidate every year for Hall induction, but each year it was revealed that, again, he had not made the cut.
Injuries, and the time they robbed him of, were used by some to justify of his absence from the Hall, though not from the committee, which keeps all deliberations private.
It's hard to argue against the productivity and dominance of his career when healthy. Lindros posted 1.14 points per game, a mark that ranks 15th among all inactive players (minimum 500 games). All but one of the 14 names above him that list was previously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"I think there was some times you get thinking back and wondering what if," said Lindros, who scored 372 goals along with 865 points in 760 games. "But I think when it's all said and done it's an honour. It just kind of feels full circle if you can understand that.
"I play hockey a couple times a week just to try to fit in my jeans. To have this honor right here at the end of things when my game is certainly on the downslope is a great feeling and a great honor.
"I'm super happy."
Lindros could be an awe-inspiring blend of size, speed and sheer force, almost a prototype for the ideal hockey player. Imposing at six foot four and more than 200 pounds, he was often a fearsome force over eight seasons with the Flyers, paired frequently with John Leclair and Mikael Renberg on Philadelphia's "Legion of Doom" line.
Lindros led the Flyers as deep as the Stanley Cup final in 1997 where they were swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings.
Troubles with concussions and subsequent friction with Flyers management, which included his captaincy being stripped and a year-long contract dispute, eventually saw him dealt to the New York Rangers in 2001. He landed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars in his final two NHL seasons, the summation of a career that began most awkwardly.
Prior to the 1991 draft, Lindros made it known that he would refuse to play for the Quebec Nordiques, who held the No. 1 overall pick. The Nordiques drafted him anyway. Lindros held out a full season before a trade to Philadelphia, one that included Peter Forsberg, was worked out.
Speaking more than 20 years after the fact, Lindros said the decision not to play in Quebec had nothing to do with the province, people or culture, but with the Nordiques ownership at the time, which included Marcel Aubut, the now-disgraced former head of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Lindros led the league with 70 points in 46 games in 1994, winning his first and only Hart Trophy as MVP.
He also won gold for Canada both at the Canada Cup and Olympics, the latter in 2002 on a squad led by Quinn.
Inducted into the builders' category, Quinn played for nine NHL seasons before spending almost four decades in various coaching and front office roles, both in the NHL and with Hockey Canada.
He served behind the bench of three Canadian clubs, including long and successful stints with the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs. He led the Canucks to the Cup final in 1994, coming just shy of that mark during his time in Toronto.
His 1979-80 Flyers squad was also defeated in the final.
"He was good with handling personalities and getting the most out of his players," said Lindros of Quinn, playing for him at the Olympics and for one season in Toronto. "I thought he was a real personable coach, but still stern and sharp and an old-school way about him on top of that."
Quinn twice won the Jack Adams trophy as the league's top coach and was the chair of the Hockey Hall of Fame at the time of his death in Nov. 2014. He also coached Canada to gold at the world junior championships and 2004 World Cup of hockey.
Kalli Quinn used to ask her father about his chances for induction into the Hall. His response: "You're crazy."
"It's such a huge honor for the family, and we're so proud of him and we've always been proud of him and this is just the icing on the cake," his daughter said. "It's kind of surreal and still can't really believe it's happening, but we appreciate it so much."
Like Lindros, Vachon long wondered whether he would get into the hall. He'd given up hope in fact, last suiting up in 1982.
"I sort of resigned myself that I don't think it's going to happen after all those years," he said.
Vachon won three Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and was the runner-up for the Hart Trophy in 1975. He set eight records during his stint with the Los Angeles Kings, including wins (171), shutouts (32), and lowest goals against average (2.24) in one season.
He later joined the Kings in both coaching and management roles, serving as GM for 10 seasons.
Makarov had his best years in Russia, leading the Soviet league in scoring for nine seasons. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 1983 and became the Calder Trophy winner as the league's top rookie at age 31, a result that led to a future age restriction on the award.