PHILADELPHIA -- He was just about to leave Citizens Bank Park on Friday en route to the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees, N.J., when I grabbed Eric Lindros for one quick second.
I had been curious about one thing: Since the news came out in October that Lindros was invited to play for the Flyers in the Winter Classic alumni game, had Lindros spoken at all with Bobby Clarke?
"No," Lindros told ESPN.com, before adding with a smile, "but it’s off to practice now."
At that practice, Lindros and Clarke would, in fact, finally speak.
"Sure, we talked," Clarke told ESPN.com via cell phone Friday evening. "It was fine. I asked him how his brother was doing. He asked me about my family. We’re fine. There’s really no animosity."
So there, Kumbaya in the City of Brotherly Love, OK?
Not ever before has an alumni game carried this much buzz, nor will one ever again in all likelihood. But the reunion of the Big E and Bobby on the same ice surface in front of 40,000-plus fans on New Year’s Eve is about as good as it gets in this town.
When Lindros arrived at the ballpark on Friday afternoon, he was soon swarmed by a large media scrum on the field. After finishing with questions, cameras followed his every step across the field as he headed towards the makeshift ice rink that will host Monday’s real NHL game.
Make no mistake about it, despite all the bad blood and the ugly exit, Lindros remains a huge star in this town. When he stepped on the ice at practice on Friday, he was cheered loudly by the fans on hand.
"It’s very nice to see Eric here, he’s a huge part of Philadelphia Flyers history with everything he did on the ice, the way he carried himself -- he was a hard-nosed player and showed up every night," former Flyers teammate Shjohn Podein told ESPN.com at Citizens Bank Park on Friday. "To have him welcomed back and embraced like this by the fans will be nice to see."
Lindros was guarded in his answers Friday, and, during previous interviews over the last month, he’s also kept his comments largely to a minimum when it came to rehashing his past battles with Clarke.
In an email to ESPN.com on Oct. 27, Lindros dealt with the subject with more detail and said it was the last time he wanted to go into it to that degree. Lindros' email was spurred by Clarke’s comments to ESPN.com the same day in which he expressed the desire to move on, that he felt Lindros deserved to be invited to the Winter Classic alumni game because he played great hockey for the team. But the former Flyers general manager added that, to this day, he still has issue with the interference he felt Lindros’ parents had on the player’s career in Philly.
Responded Lindros that day to ESPN.com:
"I've been excited since I received a phone call from Paul Holmgren inviting me to represent the Flyers and Flyer fans at the alumni game of the Winter Classic weekend," he said. "Old friends from Philly have been blowing up my phone ever since word got out. I can't wait to get back there, see them and play for the fans again. Looks to be a great event. It was very nice of Bob to say some of the things he has said, and I too look forward to catching up with him.
"While a great deal of time has passed, my beliefs on the subject of my representation have not. I had great representatives looking out for my best interests and safety. They just happened to be my parents. In the past, I have not found it worth my time to discuss and publicize much of what went on. Maybe I should have. Maybe that was a mistake. But I still, to this day, don't see the point. With that said, everyone is welcome to their opinion. Reading what Bob said and knowing him, well, that's just Bob's way.
"Time to move on with more important things. I am so excited to be heading back to Philly in January and more than likely before that. It’s going to be a great weekend. I will not have played in a game this big for almost five [years]. Pumped!"
Just an alumni game on Saturday? Don’t think so.
-- Pierre LeBrun
Philadelphia buzzing about Classic
Jim Watson has his name on two Stanley Cups -- the two won by the Philadelphia Flyers in the mid-1970s. They represent the sum total of championships won by the franchise. Watson, 59, has remained in the Philadelphia area and remained close to the game, establishing a twin-pad hockey rink in Delaware County 15 years ago. The demand was so great for ice that he and his partners doubled up with two more pads, which run nonstop throughout the year.
"Being there at the rink, we’ve got a big tournament going on there right now with about 100 teams, that’s all anybody’s talking about is the Winter Classic. 'Jim, you playing, I’m coming down, can you get me tickets?' But they’re so excited about it," Watson said.
"It’s given hockey a great boost in the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas but also in general nationally."
And yes, Watson, who took part in five NHL All-Star Games and played in the 1976 Canada Cup, will be taking part in the sold-out alumni game along with his brother Joe, with whom he won those championships.
"I’m a late addition," he said with a laugh. "They want a rushing defenseman. They called me up and they said, 'Somebody’s got to bail out Joe so you’ve got to be there to help him.' "