In hockey, it takes an entire team to win a game and, in times of life crisis, the same logic applies.
Oskar Lindblom credits not only his family and friends back in Sweden but his teammates on the Flyers for helping him get through a seven-month battle with Ewing’s sarcoma.
The emotional support he received, both at the rink and away from it, helped supply some of the strength he needed to get through his ordeal with the rare form of bone cancer.
His test of courage was recognized on Tuesday when the left wing was named recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.
Lindblom became just the fourth Flyer to receive the honor, following in the footsteps of Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke (1972), Tim Kerr (1990) and Ian Laperriere (2011).
Speaking on a Wednesday NHL media Zoom call from his home back in Europe, Lindblom said having the Flyers players in his corner meant a lot.
“It’s been huge,’’ Lindblom said. “Like from the start, they gave me so much energy, they kept me pushing through the first couple days (back in December, 2019 when the initial diagnosis was made).
“It was tough to soak it (the prospect of chemotherapy, etc.) all in. Just to have them there and supporting me everyday. . .it was like having a second family over in the U.S. That was great. I appreciate that.’’
Like the rest of the Flyers, a now-healthy Lindblom is already looking forward to next season and a return to normalcy. His comeback ran parallel to the pandemic so it was almost a double jeopardy situation.
“That (getting back to form) is what I’m aiming for,’’ Lindblom said. “I want to be the player I was before I got sick. I feel good right now, working out and all that. That’s my goal, to really push myself this summer, get back in shape and hopefully be even better than I was.’’
Looking back on the trials and tribulations, one of the high points came when he played his first game in front of fans a couple months ago when the Wells Fargo Center began to reopen to fans.
“My first game (before a live audience), they gave me a standing ovation,’’ Lindblom said. “That’s something I will never forget. That was probably the biggest (moment).’’
Of course, when news spread that Lindblom had received the Masterton, his telephone lit up with texts, calls and so forth. In a sense, this was almost a team victory.
Who can forget the Flyers wearing their T-shirts with the “Oskar Strong #23’’ emblazoned on the front?
“When I woke up this morning I had texts from guys on the team,’’ he said. “It’s always fun to talk to teammates when you’re home.
“I’m happy to win this award. I feel like it’s a special moment in my life.’’
People both inside and outside the worldwide hockey community have drawn inspiration from Lindblom’s story.
“I try to stay positive everyday,’’ he said. “I try to spread the good vibes around me. Hopefully people can take that from me.’’
It’s almost been one year since Oskar rang the bell at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital signaling the end of his treatments.
Now he can look back and realize that was a big turning point in his life. The future looks bright.
“I’m enjoying life,’’ he said. “Got back here a couple weeks ago, spending time with my family, seeing my grandparents who I haven’t seen in almost two years.
“To be able to do what I want, I feel energized again. That’s a big part of it. Hockey-wise, the same thing. I got better toward the end of the season but I feel I have more in me. I have to keep pushing to get my stamina up and play my game out there.’’
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