The National Hockey League announced on Tuesday night that Philadelphia Flyers’ 24-year-old left winger Oskar Lindblom was the winner of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Lindblom is very much deserving of the award, as he spent a year out while battling a rare form of bone cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma. During his battle, he focused not only on his treatments but keeping up with his team and staying on the ice as much as possible.
“The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and is given “to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey” (from ‘NHL Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy Winners’, NHL.com, 6/15/21). Each year, every finalist has their own personal accomplishments and stories, but there is no denying that Lindblom’s story exhibits perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey like you’ve never seen.
And the Nominees Are
Lindblom was one of three finalists in the running for the Masterton Trophy, along with Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and San Jose Sharks veteran Patrick Marleau. Dumba is well-known for his community efforts off the ice and is the co-founder of the Hockey Diversity Alliance where he focuses on speaking out against racism and discrimination within the game. On the other hand, Marleau just finished his 23rd season where he became the NHL’s all-time leader for games played, marking a total of 1,768 games. This was Marleau’s first time being nominated for this award, but his dedication to the game has been evident for many seasons.
Oskar Lindblom of the Flyers has won the Masterton Trophy, awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.https://t.co/kcH26RR2zo— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) June 16, 2021
Despite both Dumba and Marleau showcasing why they deserve the Masterton Trophy, it’s safe to say Lindblom’s victory was overdue. Just last year, Lindblom was up for the Masterton yet again but fell short due to the inspiring comeback story of then-Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan. Ryan, who currently suits up for the Detroit Red Wings, took some time away from the game in November 2019. The New Jersey native ended up entering the NHLPA player assistance program to deal with alcohol abuse. Fast forward to February 2020, where Ryan notched a hat-trick at his first game back in front of the Ottawa home crowd. It didn’t matter what team you were a fan of that day, everyone was a Bobby Ryan fan.
Regardless of winning, Ryan admitted that he thought Lindblom deserved the award more than he did. “With what [Oskar] went through, probably equally if not more deserving of this than I of was. (I’m) extremely impressed that he came back and played well too. He looked good.”
Ryan was one of many players around the league who were pulling for Lindblom to take home the award.
A Cinema Story
We see many heart-warming stories around the NHL that make us all love the game so passionately, but Lindblom’s story is rare, just like the cancer he beat. NHL players put their bodies through the wringer in the offseason during training and especially on the ice, as we’ve witnessed many times. Imagine going through the side effects of chemotherapy while continuing to train on-ice. Lindblom did just that as he was receiving chemo treatments at the University of Pennsylvania located in the city where his loyalties remained, Philadelphia.
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Just six months into treatments, Lindblom was on the ice at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. He explained in an interview, “That’s the only thing I’m waiting for right now, to be done with my chemo and be back with the team and play some hockey. That would be unreal to get back to real life again, and have fun.” The Sweden native had his sights set on defeating the beast and returning to his teammates, and the game he loves.
He did just that, ringing the bell at Abramson Cancer Center to signify his final treatments in July 2020. Six weeks later, the left-winger led his team in post-practice stretches as he joined the club in the Toronto bubble.
No words are necessary. #AnytimeAnywhere | @oskarlindblom pic.twitter.com/EyJxL5i5DM— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) August 16, 2020
While the Flyers were in the middle of battling for the Stanley Cup, Lindblom’s journey back in the game was just getting started. Although the Orange and Black fell to the New York Islanders in the second round of the 2020 postseason, the 24-year-old ended up returning to the lineup for two playoff games.
The Comeback is Greater Than The Setback
Even with the Flyers squad dealing with major issues during the 2020-21 season, it was Lindblom’s comeback season, and he made his presence known. In the midst of the team’s never-ending struggles, Lindblom got into a scrum with Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom. Lindblom has never been a player known for fighting, but his dedication to his teammates and drive to get back into the game was made clear. Finishing the season, he tallied eight goals and six assists for a 14 point total. Despite not being his best season on the scoresheet, it was no doubt a season he will never forget.
After Bobby Ryan announced Lindblom as the winner of the 2021 Masterton Memorial Trophy, he asked him about the biggest mental and physical hurdles he faced in order to come back to the game. Lindblom’s response? “You have to get back from losing all the muscles, then you start playing again and you feel like you’re not really there. It’s a tough time to get around, then it starts to hit you mentally as well. You feel tired all the time, so last season was a battle for me, just to be able to get back on the ice again was so good, I can’t say more than that. It’s an awesome feeling to be back on the ice again, I feel very honored and proud to win this award.”
In the end, the perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey that got Oskar Lindblom back to the game are the same qualities that earned him the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.