ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Flyers are playing the rest of the season for teammate Oskar Lindblom, the talented left winger who is preparing to get treatment for a rare type of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma.
“We’re a tight team and what we want to do right now is win hockey games for Oskar,” captain Claude Giroux said before Saturday’s night game in Minnesota. “…. I’m sure that’s what he would want.”
Center Sean Couturier said the Flyers are there to support Lindblom off the ice and to play hard for him in his honor.
“Ultimately, we want to make him proud of our play,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said.
As a tribute to him, equipment manager Derek Settlemyre placed Lindblom’s No. 23 jersey, uniform, and equipment in a locker-room stall, between Giroux’s and Kevin Hayes', as if he were playing against the Wild.
“I just went into the room and I saw it and it’s kind of tough not to be emotional,” Giroux said two hours before the game. “It’s good for everybody to see his jersey there.”
“It’s just a sign of respect; he’s still part of the team,” Couturier said.
Lindblom, 23, who co-led the Flyers with 11 goals, is expected to miss the season and he will find out the best course of treatment in the coming days.
Mark Herzlich, a Wayne, Pa., native who overcame Ewing’s sarcoma and later played linebacker for the New York Giants, said Saturday that his treatments lasted seven months. His tumor was in his leg; Lindblom’s is in the upper part of his body.
“It’s not easy when one of your teammates is going to go through a fight like this,” Giroux said. “I know we’re all behind him, we’re there to support him. He’s a huge piece to our team. We love Oskar a lot, and he’s a strong kid. This isn’t the news you like to hear. The last few days have been tough on us, and I can only imagine how Oskar is feeling.”
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher announced Lindblom’s condition Friday, but the players said they knew about it before they lost in Colorado, 3-1, on Wednesday.
“It definitely puts things in perspective,” Giroux said.
Defenseman Robert Hagg was teary-eyed and his voice cracked with emotion as he talked about Lindblom. They are close friends and are both are from Sweden.
“He’s shocked, for sure,” Hagg said. “I was with him when they told him [his condition] and it was hard to see.”
Hagg has had a few conversations with Lindblom since the diagnosis.
“He found out a couple days ago. Sometimes he starts crying, and 10 minutes later he feels fine,” said Hagg, who has known Lindblom for nine years. “He doesn’t feel sick. You feel healthy, but someone is telling you you’re sick. It’s tough on everyone.”
Hagg kiddingly referred to Lindblom as his “annoying little brother.”