"I never was worried about the hockey," he says. "I'd played with enough of these guys in summer leagues to get an idea of what I could do. It's not the same, summer hockey, but then again it is. You get the idea, anyway. My only worry about coming to the training camp tryouts was whether I'd make anyone mad. I didn't want to take someone's spot on the team, not having played in the league, and have a lot of guys mad at me. I only came when I found out that over 50 guys were invited for tryouts. I figured, what the heck, that's over a sixth of the league. I figured anyone who had a chance had been invited."
He says the acceptance of him has been fine, but the life obviously has been different. Why shouldn't it be? His first roommate was a man, Brent Sutter, 29 years old, married, father of two children. Everyone is a man, at least four years older. Gretzky is 30. That is a 12-year difference.
"It's all really weird," Lindros says. "I'm living a life no one else is living at my age. A year ago, playing in the juniors, it was a blast. I was going to school with all of the guys on the team, all of us in the same classes. We'd hang out together every night, all of us. Here? Guys are talking about mowing the lawn. Guys are talking about buying houses. Everyone's going his own way. Everyone's married."
He says even his best friend on the team, 22-year-old Brendan Shanahan of the St. Louis Blues, is buying a house. Shanahan? Buying a house? Incredible. Lindros has never before known anyone to buy a house who wasn't a member of a PTA somewhere.
"Couches," Lindros says with fine adolescent disdain.
But he is determined to enjoy himself. No matter how good he becomes. No matter how many people start to holler. No matter how much money is placed in front of him. The company of men is fine, perhaps, but he is also going to be a kid. That is one of the reasons he is not going to Quebec to play for the NHL team that drafted him.
"Suppose I were going to college instead of the NHL," he says. "How does that work? You have to take the SATs. How does that work? Well, there are kids who get 1,500 [out of 1,600] on the test. They're the ones who get to choose whatever college they want. They're the best. Next are the kids who get under 1,500 but over 1,000. They also get to choose, but they don't have as many choices. Then there are the kids who get under 1,000. Now they can go to college, but they mostly have to go where they can.
"Why should it be any different in the NHL? Why should someone have to go to some underwater, door-slamming school when he could go to Yale or Harvard?"
"I've made up two lists," says his mother, Bonnie. "Do you know how you make up two lists when you make a decision? Pros and cons? Here are my lists. Here is the list of pros, for going to Quebec." She holds her index finger and thumb about a quarter of an inch apart. "Maybe there isn't even a list," she says. "Here's my list of cons." She holds her right and left hands about three feet apart. "Do you understand what I'm talking about?"