It’s been a grind, but Lindblom working his way back

Photo: Andreea Cardani

Patrick Williams, Features Writer

Listen to your body, Oskar Lindblom says.

Or at least to your significant other.

At 23 years old, Lindblom – a 2014 fifth-round draft pick – had seemingly made his way into the NHL to stay with the Philadelphia Flyers. After an AHL All-Star season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2017-18, he played 81 games with the Flyers the following year. And when he opened the 2019-20 campaign with 11 goals in his first 30 games, plenty of excitement surrounded Lindblom’s game.

But something did not seem right. As the games pile up, so do the bumps and bruises. And Lindblom had what he now describes as “half a golf ball on his ribs.”

That’s strange. It’s swollen, and that swelling is not subsiding. But maybe it was a cross-check that had caused it. Maybe even a few subsequent hits to the same area.

“Me as a guy: ‘Ah, this is not bad. It’s going to get better,’” Lindblom recalls thinking.

He was, after all, young and in elite physical condition. And he was someone who did take plenty of pokes and jabs battling for pucks for a living.

But his girlfriend, Alma Lindqvist, had a different take.

“‘You have to take care of this,’” Lindblom remembers her telling him. “‘You have to go and see the doctors.’”

So he did. Then came the diagnosis: Ewing sarcoma, a cancer that occurs in the bones or the soft tissue surrounding the bones.

It’s rare. Only between 200 and 250 people in the United States are diagnosed with the cancer annually, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“It’s a good thing that she kind of forced me to go,” Lindblom said of his now-fiancée.

Suddenly hockey was on hold. And a lot more than that. Months of treatment in Philadelphia were to follow. But working with Dr. Lee Hartner and the team at Pennsylvania Hospital, they made progress.

“I got the best help I could have ever gotten there,” Lindblom said of the medical team that helped him through those months of grueling treatment. “I’m just so happy and appreciate it so much that they helped me go through it. If you didn’t have all these skilled doctors in the world, it would be a bad world to live in.”

And he had Lindqvist.

“She did a great job to help me,” Lindblom said.

And the phone calls from friends. There were some lonely days and nights for Lindblom in his hospital room, especially with restrictions imposed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When someone has cancer, perhaps their family and friends do not quite know how to help.

“I think just one phone call or reaching out [helps],” Lindblom explained. “That’s the only thing you really need to do to help. Especially for me, if someone called me just to talk about whatever to get your mind off [the situation] a little bit.”

By July 2, 2020, Lindblom had finished his treatment. Later that month he signed a new three-year contract with the Flyers and pushed his way back into their lineup for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He returned to action on Sept. 3 for their second-round battle with the New York Islanders and appeared in two games that postseason.

In June 2021 he won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an honor that the NHL gives to the player “who best embodies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game of hockey.”


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Lindblom played another 129 games with the Flyers before they bought out the final year of his contract following the 2021-22 season. He found a new home with the San Jose Sharks and dressed for 73 NHL games last season.

Now 27, Lindblom is with the AHL’s Barracuda, working his way back to the NHL.

“It’s been a grind,” Lindblom admits. “Right after you’re done and ring that bell the last day of treatment, you feel so relieved to be done with cancer hopefully for rest of your life. But then is the next step to get back to real life.”

He had to rebuild his body to an NHL standard again. Discover his game again. Find that scoring touch that had enabled him to break out to such a hot start four years ago. Reaching the NHL – and staying there – demands complete focus and dedication from anyone, to say nothing of someone who has survived cancer. Lindblom was recalled by the Sharks last Wednesday after eight games with the Barracuda. He made his NHL season debut last Friday, only to land on injured reserve this week.

But something like cancer will recalibrate anyone’s outlook and perspective. Lindblom can deal with any setback now.

“My life has been good,” Lindblom says. “I have a lot of family around me and friends who have been taking care of me and on my side at all times. I’m just happy to be able to play hockey again.

“I’m alive and living life.”