PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Eric Lindros stepped out of the dugout and pointed his stick toward the stands.
Big E had his standing O.
With a packed Philadelphia crowd standing and roaring in appreciation, Lindros made a triumphant return to the city in a Philadelphia Flyers jersey, a bitter parting more than a decade ago forgotten from the moment No. 88 hit the ice for warmups.
The red reserved for the Phillies at Citizens Bank park gave way to 40,000 fans in Flyers orange — so many who paid just to see Lindros play in the alumni showcase, a prelude to Monday’s Winter Classic between the Flyers and New York Rangers.
Lindros assisted on the first goal of the game, connecting with former Legion of Doom linemate John LeClair, to help the former Flyers beat the old-time Rangers 3-1 Saturday.
Lindros last appearance for the Flyers was in May 2000 when he was laid out by New Jersey’s Scott Stevens in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
He would be traded 15 months later to the Rangers because of a nasty falling out with former general manager Bobby Clarke.
All was forgiven Saturday.
Lindros and Clarke, who won two Stanley Cups with the Flyers in the 1970s, chatted and skated together during warmups. Clarke received a huge ovation from the 45,808 fans who filled a reconfigured ballpark. After Lindros, the loudest cheers were reserved for goalie Bernie Parent. “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” echoed throughout the park for the affable goalie, who sparked the phrase in the ’70s, “Only The Lord Saves More Than Bernie Parent.”
Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Stephane Matteau were among the former Rangers who returned for this reunion, also having won the franchise’s last Stanley Cup in 1994. Glenn Anderson scored in the second period for the Rangers. Mike Keenan coached the Rangers.
Shjon Podein and Mark Howe also scored for the Flyers and Pat Quinn was behind the bench.
Flyers founder and chairman Ed Snider dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between Clarke and Messier.
Wins and goals hardly mattered Saturday.
This was all about Lindros’ homecoming.
Lindros and the Flyers had been estranged since their breakup more than a decade ago. Lindros won a Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, made six All-Star teams, and led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 1997. His career was shortened by a series of concussions, and clashes with management paved his way out of town.
From the moment No. 88 peeked out of the Phillies’ dugout, the crowd stood and started cheering. The fans went wild when Lindros took the long walk to the infield rink that stretched from first base to third base.
He raised his arms in triumph and broke into a wide smile after his feed to LeClair put the Flyers up 1-0. LeClair, Lindros and winger Mikael Renberg comprised the popular and productive Legion of Doom line in the 1990s that helped the Flyers out of their darkest era in franchise history and into the finals.
The game served as opening act for a week’s worth of games. High school, college and minor league teams will play at Citizens Bank Park and there’s an open skate for fans.
The start time was pushed back two hours to 3 p.m. for more ideal temperatures for the outdoor game.
The NHL expects Monday’s game to start at it scheduled 1 p.m. time.
“We have a pretty big window to get the game in,” said NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.