There was much more than a hockey game going on at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. It was more like a group hug between Oskar Lindblom and 15,000 or so of his closest friends.
The players warmed up in purple jerseys, just as they had three weeks ago for Hockey Fights Cancer night. Except this time it was personal. Public address announcer Lou Nolan asked the fans to wave their “Oskar Strong” signs in the first period after a video tribute to the Flyers forward.
The message from the fans and Lindblom’s teammates is unanimous.
"You have the heart of a warrior and I know you can beat this. We are all here for you.
“You’re Flyers’ family and you got this," fan Kevin Steinman wrote on a get-well card out on the concourse. "Philly is behind you. You’re not fighting alone.”
Lindblom was in the middle of a breakout season when he received the news last week that he has Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that likely has ended his season. A course for his treatment is still being mapped out, so he was able to attend Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over Anaheim.
Lindblom declined to speak to the media, but met his teammates before and after the game. The ebullient 23-year-old had a message for his teammates as well: “Let’s win this game.”
“It was awesome to see Oskar this morning,” said Carter Hart, who made 40 saves and was the game’s first star. “It was good to see him and the positive attitude that he had. It kind of uplifted our group.”
The Flyers set out a pair of 6-foot-high cardboard signs for fans to leave their thoughts. The sight of two youngsters, who couldn’t have been more than 9 years old, using Sharpies to leave Lindblom a couple of good-luck wishes was particularly poignant.
“[Tuesday] morning was really the first time we spent time with him since we heard what was really going on," Claude Giroux said. "His attitude is unbelievable. ... We wanted to get this win for him. Every win for the rest of the season is going to be for him.”
Flyers Charities set up a table of 500 purple shirts with #OskarStrong that they were selling for $20 apiece. All proceeds went to Ewing’s sarcoma research at the Sarcoma Foundation of America. The shirts were sold out before the first period ended.
“We’re alongside him for this fight every step of the way,” Hart said. “It’s pretty cool to see how involved [fans] get and how much they care. Hockey is one big family and it’s cool to see how much support he’s getting not only from us, but from people all around the league and all around the world.”