This week marks the 26th anniversary of Pelle Lindbergh’s death. Lindbergh was 26 years old, in his third full season with the Philadelphia Flyers and on the verge of becoming one of the first Swedish goalies to become a bonafide NHL star.
Lindbergh crashed his Porsche into the wall of a New Jersey elementary school the morning of Nov. 10, 1985 and died a day later, after being declared brain-dead by doctors. According to police records, his blood-alcohol content was nearly double the legal limit and two passengers in the car were injured.
This book landed on my desk around this time two years ago and I recently re-read it.
After my first read of “Pelle Lindbergh: Behind The White Mask” – and I couldn’t put it down – I took it in to my editor and told him, “Did you know Pelle Lindbergh played in Portland?”
“Write a story about it.”
And I did – an intensive, exhaustive retrospective on Lindbergh’s life, death and legacy that I hoped would do justice while presenting the facts fairly.
I interviewed some of Lindbergh’s former Maine Mariners teammates. I talked to a couple from Florida who were Maine Mariners season ticket holders, who regularly had Lindbergh as a dinner guest at their Portland home. I spoke with the authors, Bill Meltzer and Thomas Tynander. But the hardest thing I had to do was talk to Kevin Cady, one of Lindbergh’s best friends. I worried that I would open old wounds for Cady, who at the time was the Portland Pirates’ equipment manager. I was concerned that he would still be bitter, angry.
But we sat for about 2o minutes above the ice of the Cumberland County Civic Center and talked, not just about Cady’s friendship with Lindbergh, but about Cady’s time in Philadelphia – he was also an equipment manager with the Flyers – about Mike Keenan, about the Pirates’ season and about some of the people we had in common through hockey. And, yes, we laughed about some of his memories of Lindbergh.
Cady, however, said something that struck me about Lindbergh. Something the Swede repeatedly told Cady.
Lindbergh, he said, was the one who always encouraged Cady to pursue his dreams, whether it was going into law enforcement or continuing in hockey.
”He’d ask me, ‘Kevin, what’s your passion?’ ” Cady recalled. ”He told me, ‘Find what you love and go after it. Go for it.’ ”
After the story ran, the American Hockey League promoted it via the league’s Twitter account (@TheAHL) and Flyers fans reached out to me, thanking me for the story (and when I was at the Winter Classic at Fenway Park a couple months later, I told every Flyers fan I met about the book).
Thomas Tynander sent me a touching note on Facebook. He told me that I had put so much heart into the story, and that “Pelle would have loved it.”
Now that I’m in a new phase of life, I’m proud to call Thomas Tynander and Kevin Cady my friends.
And given what everyone told me about him – his passion for life, his drive to succeed, his love of the band Queen – I think I would have adored Pelle Lindbergh had I known him.