There’s not much new to say about Eric Lindros that already isn’t well known. He’s one of the best and most well-known players in history, and nobody was surprised when he got inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016. But this is a fact that took us by surprise. Do you know the real story of why Lindros played with the number 88 on his back? Well, as it turns out, it had something to do with a well-known NHL referee’s dad.
Eric Lindros was chosen first overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques. In a controversial trade including Peter Forsberg and others, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, for which he made his NHL debut in the 1992-93 season. Lindros had everything to make a huge impact in the NHL immediately.
He had the power, technique, speed, and IQ, and in his first NHL season, he scored 41 goals and 75 points in only 61 games. Unfortunately, due to his hard-nosed style on the ice, Lindros’ time in the NHL was overshadowed by injuries. He only played for 760 games in the NHL, but he scored 865 points. An incredible points-to-game ratio. Only 19 players with more than 100 games played in NHL history have a better point per game than Lindros.
But Lindros wasn’t just a great player. Everybody that’s played with him says he’s a great guy off the ice, and he’s always cared a great lot for those around him. John McCauley was a great example of that.
John McCauley was a family friend and a mentor to Eric. He was also an NHL referee and later, in the 80s, became the director of NHL officiating. John McCauley passed away in the late 80s before Lindros played his first NHL game.
To honor the late McCauley, Lindros chose to play in the number 88. He had played with the number 8 during his early junior years, and McCauley always officiated in the No. 8. Therefore, Lindros chose to play with 88.
If the surname McCauley is familiar to you, it may be because of John McCauley’s son, Wes, who’s one of the best referees in NHL history. He has only missed two Stanley Cup finals in the last ten years, and in 2018, he officiated his 1,000th NHL game. Wes and Eric Lindros were actually friends when they were younger and even played on the same team for a while.
“We would do these little one-on-one drills,” McCauley said, per The Detroit News. “I was just a skinny little guy, maybe 160 pounds, but I would poke the puck away from Eric when he tried to beat me. He would always get the last laugh, though. He would run me into the end boards.”