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?

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10 responses »

  1. deal says:

    much loved. His name still comes up at least once a year in my circles. And it is always just like the title of your post. everybody asks “What could of Been?”

    Really part of the Flyers problem all these years is that since Lindbergh, they have never had a Goalie that could take over games and win a series all by himself.

  2. Colt says:

    I was a ten year old Oilers fan when Pelle passed away. I had his hockey cards & remember that all-white mask he wore.

    When I heard the news that he died while driving drunk – & having not experienced anything remotely like that, I wasn’t sure what to make of it all. Kinda like: ‘He’s not coming back? Why would he drive into a wall?’.

    As you say, a sad story that shouldn’t have happened.

  3. Gabriel W says:

    I’m just curious where did they get pieces of his equipment. From family or did the Flyers have some etc. ?

  4. tomseaver says:

    It was a big deal in my house when he passed because we are all HUGE Flyers fans and had season tickets for years.Pelle had unbelievable quickness and confidence and was just hitting his prime at the time of the accident. I believe the Flyers could have won the Cup with Lindbergh in goal.I remember going to the game after his death against Edmonton and the Oilers asked if the Flyers wanted to postpone the game. The Flyers passed out remembrance cards with Pelles picture on them to all fans. They had a moment of silence before the game with the lights in the Spectrum turned down. I still have the card and fond memories of Pelle in goal for the Flyers.

  5. 31fan says:

    Pelle Lindbergh was my favorite player and I was crushed when he died. I was 13 at the time and remember hearing about the accident on the radio the day after it happened and then all the publicity with him being in a coma while “brain dead” until his father could arrive. He had just won the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the league and was wildly poplular in Philly. Such a sad story.

    Some equipment came from an auction last year at classicauctions.net

  6. Riz56 says:

    I was an 8 year old kid growing up in Canada and everyone was rooting for the Oilers in the 85 Cup final. After watching his play in the finals I became a huge Pelle fan. I still play goal and the Flyers are still my favorite team to this day. I didnt understanding why he died at that age and now know just how senseless it is now. But back then, public awareness and acceptance of drinking under the influence isn’t what it is today. Anyone who has lost someone to this reckless behaviour knows how sudden and sad it is.

    Pelle is still my favorite player and I wish his ghost didn’t haunt the Flyers crease. We haven’t had a goalie since and may never again.

    Please let me know how I can enter the draw to get that piece of memorabilia, it would mean alot to me.

  7. christer says:

    I was a big big Lindbergh fan as a kid and almost lost interest when he died. My father got me his match goalie stick from VM in Finland. And also a flag with his autograph and wayne gretsky, bobby orr and about about 10 more on the flag wich I dont know who it is. I would like to sell them (prefebly to a Pelle Lindbergh fan or on a hockey auction). Do you guys have any suggestions of how I do it proberly? I live in sweden.
    Best regard
    Christer D

  8. christer says:

    to moderator.
    my email is 300wm@hotmail.se, not hotmail.com. sorry
    //christer

  9. The Road To Myself - A Memoir by Jeff Emmerson says:

    RIP, Pelle…I did a blog post on him today, with a photo of his then-fiance’ Kerstin…

    http://jeffemmersonmymemoir.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/i-was-born-to-be-a-goalie-so-was-pelle-lindbergh/

    – Jeff Emmerson

  10. Tyler says:

    It is great reading these fond memories. I lived a couple hours from Edmonton at the time but was a Flyers fan, and Pelle was my favourite player. Like it was yesterday, I recall coming in from playing outside at age ten and hearing the news. Bob Froese was a decent backup for Pelle and Ron Hextall would have been a footnote in NHL history.

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