While this particular type of cancer has a “high rate of being cured” according to WebMD, nobody thought – except for maybe Lindblom himself – that he’d return to action within nine months of diagnosis.
“I tried to keep positive thoughts throughout the chemo,” Lindblom said during media availability after the game. “I knew I’d play one day, I just didn’t know when. Today was the day and I was very lucky to be out there with these guys.”
In all, Lindlblom played 17:30 of the nearly 100 minutes of action on Thursday night, registering two hits, one block and a good chunk of power play time in the process.
“Considering what he’s been through, doesn’t it say so much about the young man?” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “After coming back [from cancer] he went right back to working out and a month later he’s here helping us in game six to get to game seven.”
Energized by their teammate’s inspirational story, the Flyers scored two goals in 96 seconds in the first period – 96 is also the number Lindblom wore playing for Brynas, his hometown club in Gavle, Sweden.
After surrendering three unanswered goals, the Flyers overcame a 3-2 and 4-3 deficit to force overtime and eventually win on an Ivan Provorov snapshot late into the second overtime frame.
Goalkeeper Carter Hart says Lindblom’s return and the team pushing a Game 7 are directly linked.
“He’s been an inspiration all season,” Hart began. “Coming into the line-up tonight, he gave us a huge boost of energy. It was like he never left. For him to be here with us, we’re so thankful and happy.”
One of the finer moments of the game came at 9:44 of the first period when both teams rose to their feet and tapped their sticks against the boards simultaneously to honour Lindblom.
”We started talking yesterday [Wednesday] and made a decision today,” Lindblom said of the situation. “It was hard to step into a playoff game like this, especially one you have to win.”
After noticing a lump in his chest in late November, Lindblom went for x-rays and a biopsy and then got news of the Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Lindblom underwent rigorous and exhausting chemotherapy for the better part of six months before his final treatment on 2nd July. That day, doctors at Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania declared that Lindblom was “without evidence of cancer at this time.”
The Flyers, as expected, had Lindblom’s back the entire time. They even offered the talented forward a three-year, $9M dollar extension on 22nd July.
“There’s nothing that can describe how we all feel,” Hart reiterated. “He means so much to this entire organization.”
Then, on 15 August, Lindblom celebrated an “extra special” 24th birthday with a new lease on life and a solidified future with his club.
From there, Lindblom joined his teammates and organization in the Toronto “Bubble” on 16th August. In recent games, Lindblom had joined his team for the pre-game skate, but Vigneault didn’t think he was quite ready yet.
Until the morning skate.
“I talked to him this morning and considering our situation, I knew Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee wouldn’t be in,” Vigneault explained. “I asked him how he felt, told him how I’d use him.”
Finally, after a pandemic extended the season and Scott Laughton’s overtime goal in game five forced a sixth game in the series, Lindblom got his chance to skate again.
“He’s a great young man who wanted to help his team and given overtime I ended up having to use him more than I anticipated,” Vigneault joked.
No doubt, the hockey world was doing the same in their minds and hearts while watching that moment on their televisions.
While 2020 has been a difficult year for all, Lindblom’s story of resilience provides a moment of hope 265 days after his darkest day.
It should be no surprise that Lindblom is a finalist for the NHL’s Masterton Trophy, presented annually to the NHL player voted to best exemplify the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.