By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
While it may have been a disappointing year on the ice for the Flyers, one story certainly stood out as an inspiration.
At the end of the previous season, for the final two games of the playoffs, Oskar Lindblom made his return to the ice following months of cancer treatments after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in December 2019. He was deemed cancer-free in July 2020 and returned to the ice in September.
When the new season began in January, Lindblom was right back on the ice as a regular. In the first game of the season, Lindblom scored a goal. He added a second into an empty net in the second game. And while he finished the season with eight goals and six assists for 14 points, he played in 50 of 56 games, marking his official return from cancer.
A year ago, Lindblom was a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an award presented to a player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. In 2021, Lindblom takes home the hardware, officially winning the award in an announcement made on Tuesday night.
"I feel very, very honored and proud to win this award and to compete with these types of players like Matt Dumba and Patrick Marleau that are great players and great people on and off the ice. It's very special for me," Lindblom said in accepting the award from last year's recipient, Bobby Ryan. "Just to be able to get back on the ice again was so, so good and I can't say more than that. It was an awesome feeling to be back on the ice again. I would like to thank my family, my girlfriend, my whole team, the organization and especially the doctors and nurses who have been helping me along the way, and everyone else who have been with me the whole way. I just want to say a big thank you to all of you."
"On behalf of the Philadelphia Flyers, I'd like to congratulate Oskar for this well-deserved honor given to him by the PHWA and the National Hockey League,” Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said in a statement. “Oskar is a young man that continues to impress us with his level of commitment and character. To go through what he went through and return to the team during our playoffs in the Toronto bubble shows an incredible amount of determination and courage. He followed that up by working extremely hard to prepare for a full season in which he had an immediate impact in our room and on the ice."
From the moment he exited the Flyers lineup for his recovery in December 2019, his inspiration and presence served as a rallying cry for the team. Lindblom continued to smile through the recovery process and continued to take steps toward his return with each passing month.
Lindblom’s return may have occurred in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but to return for an entire season, all while remaining cancer-free and getting continued positive updates from his scans, was even more inspiring. In less than two years following his diagnosis, Lindblom was back to living his typical life and playing on a daily basis.
Lindblom becomes the fourth Flyer to win the Masterton Trophy. Ian Laperriere was awarded the Masterton in 2011, Tim Kerr won the award in 1989 and Bobby Clarke won it in 1972.