Alain Vigneault has been around the block. But the 59-year-old said his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers was made ‘extra special’ by Oskar Lindblom’s successful fight against Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
Earlier this month, Lindblom rang the bell at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania to signify the end of his cancer treatments.
Fight. Inspire. Overcome. Celebrate.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) July 2, 2020
On Thursday, Lindblom was named a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. It’s presented to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
“I’m very humbled to be considered for this award that so many courageous and great players have won,” said Lindblom. “Seeing the overwhelming support from fans, my teammates and the entire hockey community has been very emotional for me and without a doubt helped me get through this difficult time, and back to being with and doing the things I love.”
Throughout his six-month treatment, Lindblom remained upbeat. “Oskar was terrific,” said Vigneault. “He took this head-on, he didn’t complain.
“It was a challenging situation. The support that he got from his teammates, that we got from all the teams. Buying the t-shirts. It was a different season for me and the fact that he’s coming out of this and he’ll be able to play again makes this extra special.”
Vigneault Named Jack Adams Finalist
On Wednesday, Vigneault became a finalist for the 2020 Jack Adams award, as the NHL’s coach of the year.
Alain Vigneault and the @NHLFlyers had an NHL-best 14 wins (tied) and League-leading .778 points percentage (tied) since Feb. 1. https://t.co/RgEHhb9BqE #NHLAwards #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/R81julbChg
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 15, 2020
This is the fifth time that Vigneault has been named a finalist for the award — an NHL record. He won with the Vancouver Canucks in 2006-07 and was also previously a finalist with the Canucks in 2011 as well as with the Montreal Canadiens in 2000 and with the New York Rangers in 2015.
Last month, I wrote about why Vigneault’s first season with the Flyers deserved to make him a favorite of the voting members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.
— Full Press NHL (@FullPressNHL) June 23, 2020
Vigneault is justifiably proud that he took the Flyers from a non-playoff team to a spot near the top of the NHL standings.
He was also quick to praise the character of his group, particularly how they handled the news in December of Lindblom’s cancer diagnosis.
“We felt that this team grew,” Vigneault said. “Obviously, the Oskar Lindblom situation was very challenging for us as a group. I really like how our group responded and how the hockey community rallied and supported Oskar and our team and our organization during that challenging time.”
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When his season came to its unexpected halt in early December, 23-year-old Lindblom was on his way to a career year — tied for the Flyers’ team lead with 11 goals and averaging 0.60 points per game. As his focus shifted to his treatment and recovery, his fighting spirit continued to show itself — and became an inspiration to his teammates.
“You never want to see anyone battling cancer,” said Kevin Hayes. “When it happened, I think Oskar was a true professional about it. He didn’t wonder ‘Why me, why me?’ He kind of just took it on, full head of steam, and battled it.
“We obviously had his back the whole entire time,” Hayes continued. “I think it made us realize there is more to hockey. Obviously we want to win every single night and everyone wants to score goals every single night. But there’s some real stuff going on outside of hockey.
“I think our team got a taste of that this year and I think it brought our team together for sure. If anyone on our team was having problems throughout the year, all you had to do was think of what Oskar was going through. Your problems became very minuscule compared to his.
“He’s one of the toughest guys I know. Every time you saw him, he was upbeat, he was happy. If it wasn’t for him losing his hair, you probably wouldn’t have known he had cancer. He was a true warrior, true professional, and kind of made us realize that our problems aren’t that serious. I think he kind of brought our team together.”
Dreaming Of The Stanley Cup
Lindblom will not be available for the summer Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has been around the team as training camp continues in Philadelphia.
“He brings us a lot of energy even though he’s not on the ice… I think we’re going to go on a deep run here and he’s going to be a part of it.” @RobbanHagg on @oskarlindblom's impact on the locker room. pic.twitter.com/X5RMWnVxKS
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) July 18, 2020
The Flyers’ return to play will kick off with an exhibition game in Toronto against the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 28. Then, they’ll play a three-game round-robin series against the other top Eastern Conference teams.
The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs begins on August 11. Philadelphia is guaranteed a spot.
“This is going to be new,” said Vigneault. “But we’re going to get an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. That was our No. 1 goal when the season started.”