Pelle Lindbergh

When discussing Europe's greatest goaltender of all time - most talk centers around Soviet Union's Vladislav Tretiak and the Czech Republic's Dominik Hasek, with a slew of youngsters such as Miikka Kiprusoff, Tomas Vokoun and Henrik Lundqvist now entering the picture. Sweden's Pelle Lindbergh is another name that gets much mention. Had Lindbergh had he not died in a tragic car accident, he would be mentioned much more often.

Lindbergh, born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1959, became the first European goalie to excel in the National Hockey League. Despite growing up in Sweden, Lindbergh grew up idolizing the Broad Street Bullies, the Philadelphia Flyers, and in particular their saving grace, Bernie Parent. So it came as quite a thrill to Pelle when in 1979 the Flyers made the Swedish netminder their 3rd round draft choice.

Lindbergh "jumped the pond" (came across the Atlantic) to play in North America the very next season. Coming off of a bronze medal performance in the 1980 Olympics, the Flyers felt Lindbergh needed more time to develop in the North American game and culture, so he was assigned to the Flyer's top farm club, the Maine Mariners of the American Hockey League.. In his first season Lindbergh won the Hap Holmes Trophy as the AHL's top goaltender, as well as Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and a First All Star. He led the Mariners to the Calder Cup championship. He went 31-14-5 with 1 shutout and a 3.26 GAA in the regular season followed by a 10-7 record with a 3.54 GAA in the playoffs.

Despite accomplishing all one could do in the AHL in his first season, Lindbergh would only become a part time NHLer the following season, due largely to the stellar goaltending of Flyers starting netminder Pete Peeters. Lindbergh would backup Peeters for part of the season, only seeing action in 8 less than spectacular games. He spent most of the year on the bench, and also back in the AHL where he again excelled.

1982-83 saw the Flyer's deal Peeters to the Boston Bruins for Brad McCrimmon, and opening the door for not only Pelle Lindbergh, but another hot shot goaltending prospect in the organization - Bob Froese. The two would share the crease that season. Lindberg went 23-13-3 with a 2.98 GAA, but faltered badly in the playoffs, going 0-3 with a 6.00 GAA.

Bob Froese meanwhile came up from Maine to post a 17-4-2 record with a spectacular 2.52 GAA. The following season would see Froese get the nod as the starter and Lindbergh backed up, struggling to a 16-13-3 season with a 4.05 GAA. There became much doubt whether this Swedish goalie could break the European stereotype and become a star goalie in the NHL.

Lindbergh quickly erased any doubts the following season. Lindbergh shone in training camp and stole back the starting role. He would play in a league leading 65 games and led all goalies with 40 wins, accumulating only 17 losses with 7 ties and 3.02 GAA. Even more importantly, he was even better in the playoffs where he played all in playoffs games, going 12-6 while posting an incredible 2.50 GAA and a playoff leading 3 shutouts. Lindbergh's incredible playoff run was cut short by the powerful Edmonton Oilers, as they would go on to defeat the Flyers in the 1985 Stanley Cup Final. At the end of the year, Lindbergh was given the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender.

Lindbergh would get off to another quick start the following season, going 6-2 in 8 games, quickly proving the season before was no fluke. However, tragedy would then strike. On November 10, 1985 Lindbergh crashed his sports car into a wall, and he died on impact. One of hockey's brightest young superstars died in a senseless drinking and driving mishap.

News of Lindbergh's passing was obviously a shock to fans of the NHL, but also to his fellow countrymen in Sweden. Lindbergh was a household name in Sweden. By the time he was only 20 years old he established himself as the top goalie in Sweden. His international accomplishments were highlighted by the 1980 Olympics bronze medal. Lindbergh twice played in the European Junior Championships where he was named top goaltender both years. As well he participated in two World Championships and the 1981 Canada Cup.


Anonymous,  5:25 PM  

Pelle...If your listing... I want you to know that it is 8:25pm est on Saturday the 29th of march,2008. I want you to know that still to this day I miss you!!! I hope someday we'll meet again so I can say HELLO, one more time and thank you for the great saves. P.S. I'm watching the Flyers and they sure could use you!!!! God Bless U :(

Anonymous,  6:41 AM  

Pelle, We could use your help finishing of those rotten habs tonight! I know your helping Biron and the rest of the team. God Bless Pelle A.K.A Best goalie ever!!!!

Anonymous,  2:52 PM  

Pelle, its hard to believe it has been 23 years since you passed away. You have always been my favorite player even after all these years. I can't imagine that we wouldn't have won the cup with you in goal. You are still missed so very much

jeremy,  4:13 PM  

pelle...even though im not a flyers fan,i remember watching you play for the first time in the early 80s in hershey against the bears and ever since then i always thought you were the best goalie ever and i still do!!!!! cant wait to meet you in heaven my friend!! god bless and rest in peace!!!!

Anonymous,  7:35 PM  

Pelle, you were my hero when I was a kid, It was a shock to me when I heard that you had that fatal car accident. Rest in peace, you're the greatest to me!!

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