VOORHEES – One day after cancer survivor Oskar Lindblom signed a new three-year, $9-million contract, Flyers’ players and coaches had time to express a positive reaction.
This is not just a feel-good story of the year, it’s one for an entire generation.
Lindblom waged a six-month battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and so far so good.
So good, in fact, that the Flyers are hoping to add the 23-year-old Swede to their 31-man roster for the Stanley Cup playoffs in Toronto.
The contract itself is not just about money. It’s about a belief by the Flyers that Lindblom will continue his comeback and go on to reach his potential as an NHL player in the years to come.
Lindblom’s teammates recognize this and are appreciative.
That list includes Robert Hagg, a fellow Swede, who is probably Lindblom’s closest friend on the team.
Currently Lindblom is home visiting his family in Sweden but he will be back shortly and the two men can raise a glass or two then.
“Everybody’s happy for him,’’ Hagg said. “I talked to him yesterday, happy of course. As you guys (media) heard, he’s back home in Sweden right now, seeing his family and all his friends. He’s really happy, that’s all I can say.’’
Hagg has had a close-up view of what Lindblom has gone through. The two talk on a regular basis, no doubt in Swedish much of the time.
“I was really happy when I found out,’’ Hagg said. “He deserves it after what he’s gone through. It’s so good for him. I’m glad he’s back home to see his family and all his friends. Hopefully he comes back soon.’’
Seven months ago, no one could have imagined Lindblom would return this soon.
From losing all his hair from chemotherapy to now putting on his skates again, it’s been quite a journey. General manager Chuck Fletcher has shown he believes the journey will continue
“It (his return) is going to be a lot of fun,’’ Hagg predicted. “I can tell you that. I can think back that it’s December, 6-7 months ago, we didn’t think it would be possible. Here we are, and we hope we can make it that far that he’s able to come back and give us an extra push at the end.’’
Scott Laughton knows Lindblom doesn’t have to play in Toronto to provide inspiration. Just being there and being around the locker room should have a positive effect.
The quickness of Lindblom’s comeback might have taken some by surprise but the players had a hunch he might be returning about now.
“We always had the date in mind and we kind of knew the timeline of it in the room,’’ Laughton said. “It’s a tough situation coming in in the playoffs. If we can see him there and see him skating and working out, who knows what comes of it? Just excited for him and his family to be able to share this and come with us and try and make it work.’’
Head coach Alain Vigneault sounded like he couldn’t be more pleased to have Lindblom back, not only as a hockey player but a person as well.
“There’s no doubt that I’m real happy with Chuck’s decisions, the organization’s decision,’’ Vigneault said. “Oskar’s a great young man. He battled real hard. We expect him to play at some point here in the near future.
“He’s been working out. He’s been skating. He wanted to go home and see his family, which is obviously normal and expected after beating the cancer. We do think in a short amount of time here, he’ll be back with our group and skating with the boys on the ice. Depending on how quick and how good he feels, at some point he might be able to help us in the near future.’’
Vigneault said it won’t be difficult to get a player of Lindblom’s character back into the mix. This is a player who has scored 24 goals in his last 70 games, which translates to close to a 30-goal full season.
“I’ve always been of the philosophy that you work with the players that are capable at that time to play for you,’’ Vigneault said. “Oskar, right now at this time, is not, but that doesn’t mean at some point in the future he won’t be. For right now I’m focusing on the guys who are here that are healthy. If we feel that Oskar can step in and play well for us, we’ll make that decision.’’