Historic Moments

November 10th-15th, 1985 - Pelle Lindbergh in Fatal Car Crash

The following articles detail the passing of Pelle Lindbergh. Some parts may be difficult to read as it deals with details of his passing.

Vezina winner Pelle Lindbergh dies tragically in car crash

Lindbergh was heart of Flyers

Special to the Toronto Star - Monday, November 11, 1985

 Pelle Lindbergh, a jaunty little Swede who loved fast cars and driving them flat out, is in a New Jersey hospital, his life measured in days and Philadelphia Flyers will try to pick up the pieces after the loss of a key player and a much respected teammate.

 Lindbergh was the heart of the Flyers. When everything else went wrong, offensively or defensively, the 26-year-old goaltender stood tall in the nets.
 His consistency and quick reflexes kept the Flyers in the game until the National Hockey League team got back on track.
 Lindbergh, the top goalie in the NHL last year, was reported brain dead yesterday after his sports car slammed into a wall. He was kept alive by a respirator at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital - Stratford Division in Stratford, N.J., team officials said.
 Lindbergh, who came to the United States from Sweden in 1980 to pursue a professional hockey career, had become the only European goalie to star in the NHL.
 A flashy goalie with glittery lifestyle that included a Mercedes and a customized Porsche, Lindbergh won the hearts of Philadelphia fans, whose cheers of "Pel-le, Pel-le, Pel-le", regularly filled the Spectrum.
 "He loved fast cars. He loved his Porsche," Flyers spokesman Rodger Gottleib said.
 Lindbergh is the second Flyers goalie whose career was cut short. In 1979, the career of Bernie Parent, now in the Hockey Hall of Fame, was cut short when he was struck in the eye with a stick. Parent has been Lindbergh's goaltending coach with the Flyers.
 The Flyers won two Stanley Cups with Parent in goal and haven't won one since. But last year, with Lindbergh as the linchpin, they reached the final round.
 Before Lindbergh's accident, the chances were considered good that in 1985-86 the team would return to the finals and perhaps win the Cup for the first time since 1974-75.
 Flyer general manager Bob Clarke said the accident left in team in a deep state of shock.
 "Not only was Pelle a great goalie, a key man in our team moving up to be a serious contender, he was an extremely well-liked player, a positive guy who inspired a lot of faith," Clarke said.
 "He liked to drive fast and we told him repeatedly to slow down. But I suppose when you're young, strong and full of life you think you're invulnerable to everything. I guess it's natural to feel that nothing can ever happen to you."
 "It's going to take a couple of days for this to sink in. We do know that it's an enormous loss for his family and our hockey team. We haven't made any decisions on our goaltending or any other part of it"
 The Flyers gathered at the hospital yesterday morning as word of Lindbergh's situation and were joined by coach Mike Keenan. The team went to their training rink, the Coliseum in nearby Voorhees, N.J., for a meeting.

 "It was felt that the players should all be together and told exactly what happened and what Pelle's situation is," said Flyers spokesman Rodger Gottleib. "They're all very shaken because this is a tragedy of overwhelming proportions." Curt Lindstrom, newly named coach of the Swedish national hockey team, recalled coaching Lindbergh when the youngster joined the Hammarby club of Stockholm.
 "I first met Pelle when he was only eight and I coached him on one of Hammerby's sub teams," Lindstrom said. "I talked with him only and few weeks ago and I am deeply shocked by this tragic accident. He was a fantastic guy in all respects."
 Lindstrom said Lindbergh was "something of a child prodigy. We soon discovered his phenomenal talent as a goaltender, even at that tender age. He also remained that same nice kid throughout, despite his success, always smiling, friendly, open and positive."

Teammates celebrate another win with popular teammate Pelle

Flyers Look Toward Froese

Associated Press - Tuesday November 12th, 1985
 Just for a moment stark realism crept into the grief surrounding the tragic automobile accident that left Philadelphia Flyer's all-star goaltender Pelle Lindbergh brain dead
 "I know it sounds morose but we need a goalie," general manager Bob Clarke said Sunday, shortly after arriving at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Stratford, N.J.
 Clarke and other Flyer executives met yesterday to consider the impact on the team of the loss of Lindbergh, the National Hockey League's top goalie last season.
 Lindbergh, 26, who came to the United States in 1980 after playing on the Swedish bronze medal winning Olympic team, crashed his $117,300 Porsche sports car into a concrete wall in Somerdale, N.J. Sunday morning.
 This young team, which lost to the Edmonton Oilers last season in the Stanley Cup final, skated freely because of its confidence in Lindbergh. His consistency and amazing saves covered many mistakes by his teammates.
 A hockey team can recover quickly from the loss of a defenseman, a wing or a center, but standout goaltenders are hard to come by as invaluable antiques.
 How do you replace an all-star player who led the league last season with 40 victories ?
 At a news conference yesterday, Clarke said, "We know what we have to do. We're going to have to bring in another goalie. Obviously it's going to be tough on whoever we bring in. There's going to be scars left on a lot of players. As bad as we can all feel, we can't use this as an excuse not to continue."
 Flyers' president Jay Snider said, "As for the impact on the team, in a week or two we'll site down ... and decide what's right (for the team). It's such a shock that we haven't thought about anything else."
 But Gary Darling, assistant general manager, said backup goalie Bob Froese would be Lindbergh's replacement.
 Darling said of Froese, who is in his third year with the Flyers and has a 64-19-9 record, "He has the best record of any active goalie in the NHL. The players have a lot of confidence in him. We feel he can do the job."
 Darling said Froese was comparable to Lindbergh when both were on their game.
 "Both are standup goaltenders with primarily the same style," he said.
 This season Froese is 6-0 with 16 goals allowed for a 2.87 goals against average. Last season, hampered by injuries including a knee problem, Froese was 13-2-0 with a 2.41 goals against average.
 The only indication of Froese's ability over the long haul is his 28-13-7 (3.14) record in 1983-84. He finished that season fifth in goals against average, fourth in victories, fourth in shutouts and seventh in save percentage.
 Only last week, Froese spoke out publicly about his frustration as a backup. He asked for more playing time, and intimated he would like to go elsewhere if that was necessary for him to become a No. 1 goaltender.
 Froese's feelings followed rumors that he was going to be traded to the Los Angeles Kings for a defenseman. The Flyers denied it.
 Whether it was an indication that moving Froese was to occur, the Flyers recently claimed goalie Ron Low on waivers from Edmonton. But Edmonton decided it wanted to keep Low and the Flyers returned him for future considerations.
 Even should Froese capably replace Lindbergh, the Flyers are weakened in goal. With Lindbergh and Froese, they had a duo recognized as one of the best in hockey. Now, as Darling indicated, they'll bring up Darren Jensen from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League as a backup.
 The question is whether with a Froese-Jensen combination, the Flyers, who lead the Patrick Division with a 12-2 record and the league with 24 points, can win their first Stanley Cup championship since 1974-75.
 The job is going to be difficult. Froese has to prove he can be a No. 1 goalie.
 Flyer coach Mike Keenan said of Froese, "He has the support of myself, the other coaches, the team and management. Bob has a sense of commitment."
 Keenan sent the team through a practice session yesterday.
 Darling said Keenan "wanted to bring everybody together and work some of the anxieties out."
 He said the players were all saddened but when it cam time to work they were ready.
 "They have to pick up the pieces when realism sets in. They're strong young men and they're going to do it," Darling said.

Bob Froese helps clean out Pelle's locker
His nameplate remained and a teammate added a Swedish flag


Father joins Lindbergh vigil

Associated Press - Stratford N.J. - Tuesday November 12, 1985
 All-star goalie Pelle Lindbergh, who was drunk according to state law whe his sports car slammed into a concrete wall, will remain on life support systems until his family is "satisfied with the finality of the situation," the Philadelphia Flyers' team physician said yesterday.
 Lindbergh, 26, was declared brain dead Sunday after several examinations by neurologists and neurosurgeons confirmed irreversable damage to his spinal cord and brain stem, said Dr. Edward Viner.
 He said Lindbergh's blood alcohol content was .24 percent at the time of the accident, far above the .10 limit at which a New Jersey driver is considered intoxicated.
 Viner, who kept a constant vigil at Lindbergh's bedside at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, said the "prognosis continues to be in compatible with life."
 A decision to turn off the respirator would not be made until Lindbergh's father, Sigge, arrives from Sweden, he said. The elder Lindbergh was expected here last night.
 If the family decides to doante Lindbergh's vital organs for transplant, the decision should be made by tomorrow, said Dr.Louis Gallo, a staff surgeon at Kennedy Memorial.

Sigge Lindbergh

 "We're going to work with the family to decide how far they want us to go in sustaining biological life," Gallo said.
 The elder Lindbergh, a retired shipyard worker, has a "signifcant heart condition" a family members were worried about the strain as he travelled to the United States, Viner said. The hockey star's mother, Anna-Lisa, was visiting her son before the accident.
 Mrs.Lindbergh and Pelle's fiance, Kerstin Pietzsch, have been at her beside, Viner said.
 "I want him to live, but I want him to be a person." the tearful Pietzsch said Sunday. "I always worried about a car accident, but he laughed at me. He told me not to worry, but I worried."
 The two passangers in Lindbergh's car, both friends who squeezed into the front seat of his Porsche, were seriously injured and remained in hospital.
 Kathyleen McNeal, 22, of Ridley Park Pa., was in stable condition at Kennedy Memorial with injuries to the liver and spleen. Edward Parvin, 28, was in critical condition at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center, Camden, with a fractured skull.
 In addition to critical brain injuries, Lindbergh suffer fractures of the hip, leg and jaw. He was "twisted up like a pretzel" and pinned in the wreckage, said Sommerdale police Det. Charles Pope.
 Lindbergh's sports car failed to make a curve on a road in nearby Sommerdale and smashed into a wall in front of an elementary school at about 5:40 a.m. Sunday.
 Lindbergh and his friends had just left an after-hours bar at the athletic complex in Vorhees, where the Flyers train.
 "He had a fair amount to drink," Viner said. "Pelle was not a drunk. He did drink too much (before the accident). Kids have done this after games for years. I hope that sends a very strong message to student athletes."
 Noting that the Flyers had one 10 games in a row, general manager Bobby Clarke said Lindbergh was apparently out celebrating "and like so many celebrations, alcohol was involved."

 "He hardly ever drank. He didn't have to. A lot of guys get their personality from drinking. Pelle didn't have to," Clarke said.
 Thomas Ericksson, a defenseman and fellow Swede who played with Lindbergh ever since he was 15, told the Swedish press he was surprised by the high level of alcohol in Lindbergh's body.
 Ericksson, who was in tears at the hospital after the accident, regained his composure on the ice yesterday when the Flyers held their first practice since the tragic accident.
 "It's terrible, but life has to go on," Ericksson said. "We might as well get out there right away. That's the way Pelle would have liked it. What's done is done."
 "This is where Pelle was happy. This is where we came together," said defenseman Ed Hospodar.
 Coach Mike Keenan, who rejected an offer from the Edmonton Oilers to postpone Thursday night's game at the Spectrum, said, "It wouldn't make any sense to procrastinate. Pelle loved the game of hockey and they know they're sharing something both the team and Pelle cherished."
 At the hospital earlier, Clarke said, "There's going to be scars left on a lot of players. As bad as we feel, we can't use this as an excuse not to continue."

Flyers huddle for support in practice
(inset - Ron Sutter wipes away a tear)

Lindbergh's family says goodbye

Pelle's organs to be donated for transplants

Stratford N.J. (AP) - Wednesday, November 13, 1985
 Doctors removed organs for transplant donations from the body of hockey star Pelle Lindbergh yesterday after the parents of the standout goalie said their goodbyes to their brain-dead son.
 Philadelphia Flyers team physician Edward Viner said Lindbergh's parents gave doctors permission to remove the organs, but delayed the operation because they wanted more time with their only son.
 "Privately, they must hope that there could be a miracle ... but they're anxious not to lose the potential of helping other," Viner said.
 The operation to remove the organs was completed by 8 p.m., said Maria Toci, a spokeswoman at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital - Stratford Division.
 She would not disclose which organs were taken out of the body and had no other information.
 Dr. Louis Gallo, a surgeon at the hospital, said Lindbergh's parents had signed a release, allowing donation of his organs.
 His relatives "have accepted the finality of his condition. They want more private time with him," Viner said. Lindbergh's two sisters, who are in their 40's remained in Sweden, a team spokesman said.
 "From a purely medial point of view, he's been dead since 5:40 a.m. Sunday," said Viner, who described Lindbergh's existence as "a state of semi-living".
 Sigge Lindbergh, 69, flew from Sweden Monday to his son's bedside, where the goaltender's mother, Anna-Lisa and fiancée, Kerstin Pietzsch, have kept a vigil since the accident.
 Lindbergh, 26, was legally drunk when he left an after-hours bar and drove his red Porsche 930 into a concrete wall in front of a Somerdale elementary school, authorities said.
 Lindbergh's brain stem and spinal cord were irreversibly damaged by the crash, in which he also suffered fractures of the hip, leg and jaw, doctors said.
 Burial will be in Sweden, although no plans have been made, he added.
 Tests taken in the hospital emergency room showed Lindbergh's blood alcohol content at .24 percent, far above the .10 percent limit at which a New Jersey driver is considered legally drunk.
 Authorities say a person of Lindbergh's weight would have to consume 15 drinks within four hours to attain that level, but Flyers' players who were at the bar insisted Lindbergh did not appear to be heavily intoxicated when he left.
 Asked if there was a possibility the tests could be wrong, Viner said, "Sure, there is. We all wanted to avoid the issue of a number ... I felt forced to reveal a number. I don't know what he was like at the moment (he left the club)."
 "Pelle didn't appear to be intoxicated. I don't care what the numbers say," said Flyers president Jay Snider, who was present Sunday morning at The Coliseum, a bar in the complex a Voorhees where the Flyers practice.
 Under New Jersey's liquor liability laws, a bar owner can be held liable for injuries suffered by patrons and others they may injure if they cause accidents after becoming intoxicated.
 Snider said the Flyers would not conduct an investigation of the incident.
 The state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control can issue a 15-day license suspension to taverns whose bartenders serve patrons who are intoxicated.
 Lindbergh's stunned teammates were on the ice early yesterday morning preparing for their game against Edmonton Oilers tomorrow night - a game the Oilers offered to postpone because of the accident.
 Flyer officials yesterday cleaned out Lindbergh's locker, but kept his nameplate on the cubical. Later, one of his teammates placed a Swedish flag above the locker.
 Meanwhile, the Flyers said yesterday they have called by goalie Mike Bloski from the Kalamazoo Wings of the International Hockey League.
 Bloski, who was signed by the Flyers as a free agent before last season, joins Bob Froese, the Flyers' backup goalie.
 Bloski appeared in two games with the Wings this season.

Clarke was unable to hide emotions
upon hearing Pelle was removed from life support


Flyers leave grief in locker room as they win 11th game in a row

Frank Orr - Toronto Star
Philadelphia - Friday November 15th, 1985
 The body of Pelle Lindbergh will be taken to Sweden this week for a memorial service and burial in Stockholm, two of his transplanted organs already giving new life and hope to unidentified recipients, and his Philadelphia Flyer teammates now will try to pick up the pieces of their Stanley Cup Quest.
 Lindbergh, the National Hockey League's all-star goalie last season, died from injuries suffered when he hit a wall with his sports car in New Jersey early Sunday morning. He was pronounced brain-dead four hours after the crash but kept alive until Tuesday by a respirator when his family, who had gathered from Sweden, made the decision to donate all possible organs and tissues for transplant, then remove him from the life-sustaining machinery.
 A private memorial service, attended by family, Flyers players and officials and representatives from the NHL and other teams, was held Wednesday at the Old Swedish Church in downtown Philadelphia.
 Last night, another memorial service was held before the Flyers' game against the Edmonton Oilers, the eagerly awaited rematch of last spring's Stanley Cup final, which the Oilers won in five games.
 In the game, Rich Sutter's goal at 11:04 of the third period triggered the Flyers to a 5-3 victory, their 11th in a row, and with rookie Darren Jensen in the nets.
 The Flyers left their grief in the locker room as they checked, skated and defended in the style that has taken them to a 13-2 win-loss record and the most points in the league.
 The Flyers took a 1-0 lead at 17:25 of the first period when defenseman Mark Howe connected. The Oilers tied it at 17:53 of the second period when Larry Melnyk scored.
 Illka Sinisalo sent a 25-foot shot past goalie Andy Moog 24 seconds into the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Brian Propp then scored his 13th goal of the season with a 25-footer to make it 3-1 at 3:26.
 The Oilers rallied. Paul Coffey cut it to 3-2 at 6:27, then Sutter skated and flipped the puck in to make it 4-2 at 11:04.
 Edmonton's Mark Messier cut the lead to a goal at 12:31. The Flyers' Brad McCrimmon scored an insurance goal at 16:50.
 Jensen was summoned yesterday from Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League when Bob Froese, who was thrust into the No. 1 role by Lindbergh's death, suffered a groin injury in practice yesterday.
 "We felt that it was best for the players to get on with their lives as quickly as possible," said Flyers coach Mike Keenan. "The environment in which they are the most home is hockey. This has been a dreadful week for all of us because we've been through the depths of every emotion and we wanted to get back to our professions as soon as we could."
 "To be back in the competitive atmosphere will be very therapeutic for the team. But it's difficult to predict how we'll react to it after such a draining week."
 That Pelle Lindbergh left a large mark on the team and it's fans is not an overstatement. The breezy, extroverted little Swede, who lived life in a swift lane of fast cars - his \$117,000 turbo charged Porsche modified to rocket ship status, a speed boat, a stunning blonde fiancée and a noteworthy ability to stop pucks.
 "Pelle had so much fun and jammed so much into his life that maybe we were a little envious of him because of the zest and zip he carried into everything he did," said Flyers captain Dave Poulin. "He was a wonderful friend to everyone on the team, a guy who made you feel better just because he was there."
 "He was a splendid goalie, so good that we had developed complete faith in him and his ability to prop us up in all situations. That means we never hesitated to take the little extra gamble, especially on offense, because we knew he was there to bail us out."
 Long-time broadcaster Gene Hart, the team's unofficial chaplain, Rev. John Casey and Bernie Parent spoke at the 23-minute service during which the teams lined up along the blue line. Parent was the goalie on the Flyers' two Cup teams in the 1970's and he was Lindbergh's hero. Parent coached the little Swede on goaltending's fine points with the Flyers.
 "He said I was his hero," said Parent in a very moving eulogy, "but I wish I could tell him how much I admired him, how much I respected him and how much I cared about him."
 "He was really a boy, naive, sensitive, friendly and likable. He loved life, he loved hockey and he will always be in our hearts."
 A major problem for the Flyers, unless they can make a deal for an experienced goalie, could be that they won't have him in their net.

Pelle at the all-star game


Grieving Flyers defeat Oilers

Philadelphia (AP) - Friday November 15th, 1985
 An elderly Swede who couldn't speak a word of English said it all for the Philadelphia Flyers.
 The Flyers left their grief in the locker room long enough to go out and defeat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 Thursday night in an emotion-packed game.
 But when the Flyers returned to their dressing room, the sadness of the last five days lingered.
 As they peeled off their worked clothes, Sigge Lindbergh shuffled into the room. He walked slowly by each locker and gently shook hands with the players.
 He was thanking them for beating the Oilers in the first of many games dedicated to his son, Pelle Lindbergh, the all-star goalie of the Flyers, who won the Vezia Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL last season.
 Sunday, Lindbergh, who loved fast cars, drove his sleek, red Porsche 930 into a wall in nearby Somerdale, N.J. He was critically injured in the 5:40 a.m. accidentand just hours doctors said he was brain dead.
 Lindbergh lived on life-support until his father arrived from their native Sweden. Sigge, and his wife, Anna Lisa, had the life support system turned off Tuesday, and their son died almost instantly.
 It was the Flyers first game since Lindbergh's accident.
 Prior to the game in Philadelphia, the Flyers stood, heads bowed, on the blueline during a 22 minute memorial service for their teammate. A sellout crowd listened as Rev. Father John Casey delivered a blessing.
 Then, Bernie Parent, the goalie who led the Flyers to two Stanley Cups and was Linbergh's coach, spoke for the Flyers' organization and celebrated Linbergh's zest for life.
 After the victory, Flyers coach Mike Keenan said, "We were not emotional after the ceremony"
 "They grieved all week and found an inner strength among each other. The process of healing will take time. We'll be aware of it until the end of the season".
 It was apparent from the drop of the puck that this was a dedicated group of atheletes. They skated, checked, defended and fought like a team which led the NHL in points and carried a 10 game winning streak.
 The Flyers took a 1-0 lead at 17:25 of the first period on a goal by Mark Howe, but Edmonton tied it on Larry Melnyk's score at 17:53 of the second.
 In the final period, the Flyers' Ilkka Sinisalo made it 2-1 just 24 seconds after the drop of the puck and Brian Propp increased it to 3-1 at 3:26. But the Oilers came back to within 3-2 at the 6:27 mark on defenseman Paul Coffey's seventh goal.
 Philadelphia's Rich Sutter scored thw winning goal at 11:04 of the final period to make it 4-2. Mark Messier again slashed the margin to one just 93 seconds later but Brad McCrimmon iced it for the Flyers at 16:50.
 When Bob Foroese, Linbergh's successor, was injured in a Wednesday practice, the club recalled Darren Jensen from their Hershey Pa farm team in the American Hockey League

Flyer fans and players say goodbye to Pelle

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