Jan 11, 2009, 9:00 AM EST
Goalie Pelle Lindbergh was coming off something of a dream season in 1985, as he became the first European goaltender to win the Vezina trophy, and led the Flyers all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, where they fell to the Edmonton Oilers. Lindbergh was only in his third season as a Flyer, and seemed well on his way to becoming a franchise cornerstone for the rest of the decade. But 14 games into the '85-'86 season, Pelle went out riding in his Porsche 930 Turbo in the middle of the night, and crashed into a short concrete wall that was part of Somerdale Elementary School. The next day, November 11th, 1985, he was taken off life support and pronounced dead.
"It was just awful," recalled team owner Ed Snider. "I felt a little guilty, because everybody knew he loved his Porsche, loved to speed. I felt like I could have done more before it happened." Other Flyers remembered how Pelle's need for speed had alarmed them previously. "He scared me" said Bobby Clarke. "We told Pelle he had to slow down." But Lindbergh's style in general was one on the edge, and the team and fans loved him for it. (Flyers beat writer and friend Al Morganti referred to him a "whack job," meant of course as the highest of compliments).
Lindbergh was saluted in a service at the Spectrum before the Flyers' next home game, a re-match with the Oilers who had vanquished them in the previous year's finals. Fans were handed out pictures of Pelle with a message: "In loving memory of Pelle Lindbergh. Our friend. Our goalie." The Flyers won the game, 5-3.
(For more on the life and death of Lindbergh, check out this recently released biography from Bill Meltzer and Thomas Tynander–Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask)
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