At times like this, ice hockey suddenly becomes nothing more than just a game.
When you take into account the challenge Oskar Lindblom faces in an upcoming battle with a rare, life-threatening form of cancer, the thought of chasing a black rubber disk around a sheet of ice seems almost frivolous.
For now, he returns to only being Oskar Lindblom the person, somewhat like you and me. Each and every one of us is vulnerable to life’s unfairness and now we’re reminded of that once again.
The Flyers have seen their share of trials of this sort.
Most recently, the hideous disease – while of a different type of cancer – claimed the life of team founder and owner Ed Snider.
Players such as Barry Ashbee and Yanick Dupre also put up brave fights.
With improved medicine, it is believed the survival rate of Ewing’s sarcoma (which afflicts Lindblom) has risen measurably.
One can only wish that advanced treatment techniques will allow Lindblom to live a long and meaningful life.
Whether he ever plays hockey again remains to be seen. But that idea should not be at the forefront of anyone’s thinking right now.
If anything, the Flyers should dedicate their season to the quiet Swede, who appeared to be on the brink of a breakthrough season, with 11 goals in just 29 games.
In our opinion, one of the keys to Lindblom’s recovery will be to keep things in his life as normal as possible, which means hanging out with teammates and sharing a few laughs.
He’s only 23 and, with good fortune, has his whole life in front of him. While he’s far from his native Scandinavia, everyone he comes in contact with here should show unconditional love and support.
The Flyers, who have shown so much promise through their first 31 games, will now have to push on without one of their most skilled players.
Yet rather than let this situation bring them down, they should draw inspiration from the courage one of their brethren is going to have to exhibit.
Here’s hoping No. 23 gets back on the ice again soon, maybe sooner than we think.
>NHL’s coach-player initiative a positive step
Safe to say, the initiative instituted by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman regarding coaches’ behavior as it relates to treatment of players came at a timely moment.
The recent reports of abusive behavior involving several coaches mandated some sort of response.
At the NHL’s board of governors meeting in California, Bettman laid out a four-point plan which pretty much covers the gamut of keeping coach-player relations both civil and above-board.
The plan includes an anonymous hotline for players to report inappropriate conduct; team personnel (including coaches and management) will take part in annual training on both inclusion and harassment; poor conduct will result in disciplinary measures and, finally, teams will get a big-time penalty for failure to report incidents of unacceptable conduct.
Flyers TV analyst Bill Clement, who spent more than a decade in the NHL playing for the Flyers, Washington and the Atlanta/Calgary Flames, says the NHL’s intentions are good.
He just wonders if Bettman’s action might be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction.
“I just don’t believe in jumping into the pool of political correctness,’’ he said. “Tap the brakes a little bit. You should do your due diligence to support the action that you are about to impose.’’
Clement considers himself fortunate that he played for Fred Shero while with the Flyers. The bespectacled Shero won over players with his intelligence, his wit and his charm. He never had to threaten players or call them names.
“He was never physically or verbally abusive,’’ said Clement, who scored the insurance goal in the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 6 in 1975 vs. Buffalo. “He was a kinder, gentler guy way before his time. That was one of the things that made us love him.’’
All that said, those Broad Street Bullies were a pretty rugged bunch and could put up with a lot.
Times have changed and so has our society.
“There are things in sports that are pretty much mirroring the transition to a kinder, gentler culture,’’ Clement said. “We have to get up to speed with that.
“As a coach, I think you can still be as demanding as you want, as long as you aren’t physically abusive or verbally demeaning. If you have to resort to using those tools, you’re a coach without leadership skills, without communication skills and you don’t have the confidence to get the desired result.’’