A few days ago, my wife and I were ripping through a box of In The Game’s 2010 Between The Pipes. One of the most unusual cards I have ever pulled from a box was a goalie pad piece (as seen below) of Pelle Lindbergh. My wife and I both looked at each other trying to see if either one of us knew who Lindbergh was. So of course we googled his name to see what came up. What we saw was pure hockey history and you know how much I love to read about hockey history.
Per-Erik (Pelle) Lindbergh was born in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1979 he was drafted 35th overall in the second round of the NHL draft. He was already an accomplished goalie in Sweden, being named to the Sweedish junior national team and to the National team as well. The Flyers had him play two seasons in Maine (their AHL affiliate at the time) where he devoured the competition. In the 1981-82 season he finished the season with the Flyers and by the 1982-83 season he was considered the Flyer’s top goaltender. Over the course of the next 3 seasons, his record would be 85-45-13. His GAA hovered around 3 and his save percentage was around 91%. After the 1984-85 season he was named the Vezina Trophy winner (given to the best goaltender of the league) after leading the Flyers to a Stanley Cup birth. The 1985-86 season was supposed to be their big season, as they had a great young team and the best goaltender in the league.
Unfortunately just one month into the 1985-86 season, on November 11, 1985, he drove his car into a wall and later passed away from injuries stemming from the automobile accident. It was determined that his BAC was 0.24% which was over 2.5x the legal limit of 0.1% at the time in the state of New Jersey. His parents pulled the plug on his life support unit two days later. To put this into perspective, you had the best goaltender in the league die at the beginning of his prime. Imagine Dominik Hasek dying just after he won his first Vezina Trophy, it was simply unbelievable at the time.
Growing up on the Jersey shore, I actually don’t remember hearing about his death. I was 14 at the time and was more into baseball than hockey at the point. With no constant sports radio and no ESPN (at least in my household), I just don’t remember this happening. From reading the articles concerning his death, I could tell that he was a beloved player. His funerals (one in Philadelphia and one in Sweden) we attended by many Flyer fans and friends of his. His gravesite in Sweden is visited by many people from Pennsylvania so he is still beloved even by Flyer fans.
Lindbergh’s items still to this day remain highly sought after. On eBay, it’s impossible to find any gear card (pad, stick glove, skate, jersey etc…) for under $150, most spiral out to $200 – $500. He still remains an incredibly popular athlete as even his 1983-84 rookie card (hockey junk wax era) are considered hot commodities and sometimes run $3 – $4 on eBay which for that generation of card is a high price. When the card below is going to be given away on the site, someone will be very happy. Yes you read that right, the card below will be given away for free.
The Lindbergh story really is an incredibly sad event in hockey history that didn’t have to happen. Athletes have long felt invisible, but in truth they are like anyone else. Do something dumb, like drive severely impaired, and pay the ultimate price of life. Times were different back then, driving impaired was more prevalent than it is now. It is no excuse though, the life of what could have been one of hockey’s greatest goalies was cut short. Forever leaving us wondering what could have been?