‘This Guy’s Heart, You Have To See It To Believe It’: Lindblom Lifts Flyers’ Spirits Again
Dec. 7, 2019. Everything in the world looks so normal when you look back to that day. The Flyers played an afternoon game on home ice. Scott Laughton scored the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win. Oskar Lindblom was on the ice. It was long before anybody knew what COVID-19 or bubbles and hub cities were.
That was 270 days ago. In that time, the world changed dramatically. We had to use terms like self-isolation. We learned what COVID-19 is and what it can do. We had to social distance and wear masks to protect those around us. And we had to stay at home a lot.
Oskar Lindblom’s world changed long before that though. His world changed just days after that game, when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He faced a rare bone cancer and a rigorous chemotherapy to defeat the disease.
Lindblom was a warrior throughout, undergoing treatments and continuing to benefit his team with his smile and personality whenever he was up to making a visit to his teammates.
When the rest of the world seemed to stop in the wake of COVID-19, Lindblom kept going. His treatments continued. And while the NHL season remained paused in early July, Lindblom completed his treatments and was cancer free. His road to return was underway.
That was on July 2. Two months and a day later, Lindblom was back on the ice for a game, and not just any game. It was Game 6 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. An elimination game for his team. Lindblom played in a more limited role and didn’t factor into the scoring in the 5-4 double-overtime win. He didn’t have to. His presence was enough to lift the spirits and will of the rest of his teammates again.
“Considering obviously what he’s been through, but for me, doesn’t it say so much about the young man that he gets cleared from cancer on July 2. We start our camp on July 13. He goes back home for a couple of days. It just shows you about the young man and his will to help,” Alain Vigneault said. “He comes back, spends a couple days in quarantine and starts working out. A month later, he’s helping his teammates win a Game 6 that’s giving us a chance at Game 7. Considering our situation tonight that [Sean Couturier] and [Joel Farabee] weren’t available, for him wanting to play, just say so much about the young man.”
“That was a huge boost. This kid has so much courage,” Claude Giroux said. “He played unbelievable too. He hasn’t played since I’m not even sure, but it’s been a long time. It’s been a long battle. This guy’s heart, you have to see it to believe it.”
Heart. That’s the word that really stands out. Because no matter how many times you watch Game 6 over again. No matter how many times you read the box score or look at the advanced statistics or try to analyze and deduct a reason as to how the Flyers won that game, it comes back to heart.
There is no player in the organization that can fully understand what Lindblom had endured over the previous months and for him to do it with a smile, to do it without complaining or wondering why it happened to him, to embrace it, the challenge ahead, that shows character and heart.
It also makes for a great sense of pride when a player like that is able to return and make an impact on the ice too.
“I don’t think there’s anything that can describe how proud we all are of him and how much he means to this organization and to our team,” Carter Hart said. “A really special moment for him to come out for his first shift there and to see the support from not only our team, but the Isles all standing up and cheering him on, especially after our goal against. A lot of respect to them for that. You can ask him how he feels. I’m sure he’s pretty excited.”
The possibility of joining the lineup didn’t really come to fruition until Wednesday, after the Flyers had completed the Game 5 win. Lindblom skated in warmups in Games 4 and 5 and that had to signal he was close. But Lindblom had said he wouldn’t go into the lineup until both he and the coaching staff felt he could help the team. Injuries certainly played a role in opening up a spot, but it was time.
“We started talking a little bit yesterday and then took the decision today,” Lindblom said. “It’s hard to step into a playoff game, especially one of these where you have to win. Trying to grind it out and lucky we came out with the win here.
There had to be the thought, 270 days earlier, if and when Lindblom would ever play again. For Lindblom, it was never a doubt.
“I was just trying to think positive thoughts during the whole chemo. I knew I would play one day, but I didn’t know when,” Lindblom said. “Today’s the day. I’m just lucky to be out there and be with these guys.”
The Flyers are lucky to have him back too, and now they have a date with destiny in Game 7 on Saturday.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.