Pelle Lindbergh was one of the brightest young stars in the NHL in the mid-1980s. The Philadelphia Flyers’ star won the Vezina Award for the league’s best goalie in the 1984-85 season, but his promising hockey career was cut short just a season later. Lindbergh got in a fatal car crash a few games into the 1985-86 season. He was just 26 years old.
Pelle Lindbergh’s short but impressive NHL career
Pelle Lindbergh was an instant star from the moment he earned a starting job in the NHL. Lindbergh took over as the Flyers’ goalie in 1982 when he was just 23 years old. In his first season as the starter, he recorded a 23-13 record and a 2.99 goals allowed average.
Lindbergh came in fifth place for the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1982-83, the award given to the best rookie in the NHL.
After a poor season in his second year as the Flyers’ starter, Lindbergh bounced back in a huge way in 1984-85. In his third full season, the young phenom went 40-17 as a starter.
Lindbergh finished the 1984-85 season with a 3.02 GAA. His .899 save percentage was the highest mark of his young career. After the season, Lindbergh won the Vezina Trophy for the best goalie in the NHL. He also came in third for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Wayne Gretsky beat him out for the prestigious award that season.
Pelle Lindbergh tragically died in a car crash a year after his breakout season
At just 26 years old, Pelle Lindbergh had already established himself as one of the best goalies in the world. Hockey fans in Philadelphia believed Lindbergh was the chosen one to lead the Flyers to a Stanley Cup, but tragedy struck the next season.
In November of 1985, Lindbergh crashed his sports car into a wall. He was rushed to a New Jersey hospital and kept on a respirator, but the promising talent didn’t make it. Lindbergh was pronounced brain dead on Nov. 10.
“Not only was Pelle a great goalie, a key man in our team moving up to be a serious contender, he was an extremely well-liked player, a positive guy who inspired a lot of faith,” Flyers captain Bobby Clarke said. “He liked to drive fast and we told him repeatedly to slow down. But I suppose when you’re young, strong and full of life you think you’re invulnerable to everything. I guess it’s natural to feel that nothing can ever happen to you.”
Friends and teammates said Lindbergh loved his Porche more than anything, but one careless drive cost him his life at 26 years old.
The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since Lindbergh’s death
In his last full season in the NHL, Pelle Lindbergh led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals. Philadelphia fell to the Edmonton Oilers in five games, but the franchise knew it had its dominant goalie who could lead the team to a championship.
A few games into the following season, however, Lindbergh tragically passed away.
The Flyers were the second-biggest favorite to win the Stanley Cup in 1985-86. Philadelphia made the playoffs even after Lindbergh’s death, but it couldn’t even win one series.
Since Lindbergh’s death, the Flyers have yet to win a Stanley cup. Lindbergh gave them a chance to compete for years to come, but his sudden death shocked the team and sent them into a winless spiral.
All stats courtesy of Hockey Reference