February 25, 2010

Memories to save

RACHEL LENZI

— By

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Lindbergh, Pelle block Mar. 2-, 1981

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Lindbergh mug Sept. 19, 1982

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Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Diane Bore remembers Pelle Lindbergh's fondness for chocolate chip cookies, and the radiant grin the Swedish goalie always wore.

Paul Evans remembers Lindbergh's relaxed demeanor in the Maine Mariners' locker room and his teammate's penchant for performance cars and powerboats.

Kevin Cady remembers Lindbergh's belief in following one's passion. Cady also remembers the exact moment when he learned of the car accident that led to his friend's death -- only a few days after he'd spoken on the telephone with Lindbergh, who had encouraged him to come to Philadelphia, where he played for the Flyers.

''For me, it was the most devastating thing I've ever gone through in my life,'' said Cady, a lieutenant with the Eliot Police Department who also serves as an equipment manager with the Portland Pirates. ''I haven't gone through anything like that since.''

Twenty-four years ago Thursday, Lindbergh was removed from life support, two days after he crashed his red Porsche into the wall of an elementary school, going more than 80 miles per hour around a sharp curve in Somerdale, N.J.

According to police records, his blood-alcohol content was nearly double the legal limit. Two passengers in the car were severely injured.

Before he played for the Flyers, Lindbergh spent two seasons with the Mariners and helped them reach the American Hockey League's Calder Cup finals in 1981.

His life has been chronicled in the recently published book ''Pelle Lindbergh: Behind The White Mask,'' co-authored by Bill Meltzer and Thomas Tynander. The title is in reference to the white face mask Lindbergh wore while in goal, in homage to former Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent, whom he grew up idolizing in Sweden.

''He had the time of his life in Portland,'' said Tynander, a newspaper reporter from Sweden. ''He was new to the states, and it was everything he had dreamed of because it was America. It was about the smaller rinks, playing a new kind of hockey. And he could smell the NHL, not that far away.''

Lindbergh was a 5-foot-9 goalie with lightning-quick reflexes and a singular dream -- to play in the NHL. The 76 games he played in Portland were a collective teaching tool, for him to adjust from the European game to the North American game, played on a smaller rink with an emphasis on physical play. He transitioned well; he helped the Mariners to the Calder Cup finals in 1981, where they lost to Adirondack. After the season he was named the AHL's MVP, rookie of the year and top goaltender. Evans was one of Lindbergh's teammates on that Mariners team.

''Pelle came in and we'd heard a bit about him after he'd played in the 1980 Olympics,'' said Evans, now an assistant men's hockey coach at the University of Southern Maine. ''He was pretty highly regarded coming in and once he came to Portland, he played and he carried us right through to the finals.

''He was so laid-back. He wasn't a typical goalie who stressed out the day of a game. After you got to know him a bit and got comfortable with him, he had a great sense of humor. Nothing ever really got to him, but he competed very hard. Losses got to him a bit, but he got over them pretty quick.''

Bore and her husband, Tom, were involved with the Maine Mariners and Portland Pirates booster clubs for 19 years, and hosted players at their South Portland home. Lindbergh's visits were frequent. Sometimes he would nap on a couch or sprawl across the floor of her living room, listening to his Walkman, his sports car parked in front of her house. When he left, Bore recalled, Lindbergh departed her home with trays of lasagna or pot roast.

''Pelle was like a young son,'' said Diane Bore, who now lives with her husband in Florida. ''And he was an awesome goalie. I'm a goalie freak and I used to joke with him and the other goalies about it. I told him, 'You have to be 99 cents short of a buck to stand in front of a net and take shots all the time.' Pelle would laugh about it. But I remember Pelle because he had the biggest grin, just the biggest smile, and the biggest heart of anyone you'd ever meet. Pelle always used to tell me, 'You've got to come over to Sweden to visit.' ''

Her husband, Tom, has similar memories.

''He had a really, really nice personality, and he loved Corvettes,'' he said. ''He bought his Corvette in New Hampshire because he didn't have to pay sales tax on it. Pelle always liked speed and fast cars. And he liked to have a good time.''

Lindbergh met Cady when Cady was a senior at Cheverus High and a stick boy for the Mariners. They became close friends and Cady followed Lindbergh to Philadelphia, where he later became an equipment manager for the Flyers.

While some players preferred to keep company with teammates, Cady said Lindbergh gravitated toward equipment managers, trainers and police officers -- police officers who might look the other way when they pulled Lindbergh over for speeding.

''He really reached out to them because they reminded him of his parents,'' said Cady, who spent summers in Sweden with Lindbergh. ''His dad, Sigge, was a sailor and he found it a lot more comforting to be around people like him, like his background. And he was very, very good with kids. He made time for everybody.''

Lindbergh, he said, was the one who always encouraged Cady to pursue his dreams, whether it was going into law enforcement or continuing in hockey.

''He'd ask me, 'Kevin, what's your passion?' '' Cady recalled. ''He told me, 'Find what you love and go after it. Go for it.' ''

Evans recalled that Lindbergh wasn't a partier during his time in Portland, and that Lindbergh had made a conscious decision to cut down his alcohol consumption during hockey season. During his professional career, from September to the end of the playoffs, Lindbergh picked and chose the nights he would drink. The summers in Sweden, Cady said, were when Lindbergh let loose.

The night his Porsche slammed into the side of a New Jersey school, he initially resisted going out after a game against the Boston Bruins, but stayed out until 5 in the morning with teammates, who recalled in ''Behind the White Mask'' that Lindbergh showed no outward sign of being intoxicated.

''The accident was a tragic thing,'' Tynander said. ''He didn't want to go out that night. There were so many things that went wrong that night.''

On Nov. 10, 1985, Lindbergh was already brain-dead after he was extricated from his car and transported to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Stratford, N.J. Two days after the accident, Lindbergh's family and his fiancee, Kerstin Pietzsch, removed him from the respirator that had kept him alive, and chose to donate his organs.

''When he died, it was devastating,'' Tynander said in a phone interview last week from Sweden. ''I can remember crying. He had everything. A beautiful girlfriend, he was a millionaire, he had won the Vezina Trophy it was such a sad thing. It was like royalty had died. He was probably one of the biggest heroes in Sweden.''

Evans had retired from professional hockey a year prior and was living in Maine when he learned of the accident.

''Frank Bathe's wife called me and it was a total shock, for everybody,'' Evans said. ''I remember going on television with Bill Green that night to talk about it, and it was a real shock for everybody. It was obviously a real tragedy and anybody, that young, to lose their life. He just starting to be the kind of goalie that Philadelphia had projected him to be.''

Diane Bore received a phone call from Philadelphia informing her of Lindbergh's accident. Later, Bore saw a photo of what was left of Lindbergh's cherry-red Porsche -- the front end of the car a mangled heap of metal, pushed backwards into the driver's seat.

''I totally lost it,'' Bore said. ''When I saw the car, I thought, that car was parked in my driveway.''

Cady's sister called him after she saw the news on ESPN. After he made a few phone calls to find out what happened, he flew to Philadelphia, then rushed to the hospital.

''Pelle was on a respirator and his leg was in a cast,'' Cady recalled. ''He was being kept alive so his organs could be harvested. I went in with Kerstin, talked to him, and I said goodbye.''

'The legacy of Pelle Lindbergh is going to be that he had the potential to be one of the best goalies ever, but he was killed at the age of 25,'' Cady said.

In 180 games with the Flyers, Lindbergh had a record of 99-59-15, an .898 saves percentage and a 3.21 goals-against average.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 57,000 drivers were involved in fatal car crashes in 1985.

Twenty-nine percent of those had a blood-alcohol content of .08 or greater. Including Lindbergh, who was 26 when he died.

Today, Lindbergh would be 50. While the Philadelphia Flyers haven't officially retired his number, no Flyer has worn No. 31 since his death, and each season the Flyers honor their most improved player with the Pelle Lindbergh Trophy.

To this day, Bore keeps a Swedish flag given to her by Lindbergh's father. It's one of the few pieces of memorabilia she and her husband, Thomas, kept after they relocated from Portland to the Villages, Fla., over the summer.

It took years for Cady to come to grips with losing Lindbergh, one of his best friends.

Last week, Cady paused while taking a mental inventory of what belongings of Lindbergh's were left in his Portland home. Some photographs from trips to Sweden. Lindbergh's catching glove. His team jacket from the world championships. A poster from a tournament in Sweden that commemorated Lindbergh.

''I don't have a lot of stuff,'' Cady said. ''But I have the memories.''

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com

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Lindbergh, Pelle Maine Mariners

  


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