"Hockey . . . it's just a game. We're talking about life, we're talking about a person." -- Bob Froese of the Flyers
While his teammates gathered for practice to skate away their anger, their shock and their frustration, Pelle Lindbergh, the Philadelphia Flyers' 26-year-old goalie, remained in the intensive care unit of John F. Kennedy Hospital-Stratford today after sustaining massive brain and spinal cord injuries in a Sunday morning car crash.
In a news conference this morning, Flyers team physician Edward Viner said Lindbergh was legally drunk, with a .24 alcohol level in his blood, when he slammed his 1985 Porsche into a cement wall at 5:41 Sunday morning after having been out with friends and teammates. It is illegal to drive in New Jersey with a blood-alcohol level of .1 percent or higher.
Lindbergh's passengers, Kathy McNeal, 22, of Ridley Park, Pa., and Edward Thomas Parvin, 28, of Mount Ephraim, N.J., were listed in stable condition at New Jersey hospitals.
The injuries to Lindbergh's spinal cord and brain stem, which control the automatic bodily functions, including breathing, and the 15 minutes he went without breathing while rescuers tried to free him from the wreckage, left the goalie brain dead. With cardiac stimulants and fluid replacement to keep his blood pressure up, Lindbergh was still alive tonight, but with no chance to survive.
"We simply now work with the family to decide how far they want to go in sustaining his biological life," said Dr. Lewis Gallo, one of the hospital doctors assigned to the case. Without a respirator, Gallo added, Lindbergh would stop breathing "in a matter of minutes."
Lindbergh's mother, Anna Lisa, who has been visiting the United States, and his fiance, Kerstin Pietzsch, continued their vigil at the hospital. Lindbergh's father, who has serious heart problems, arrived from their native Sweden this evening to be with his wife and unconscious son.
Viner said the respirator keeping Lindbergh alive would be disconnected "as soon as they can come to grips with this as a family."
"We have several patients here, Pelle, his mother and father and other family members. With a terrible decision like this, you want them to be as comfortable as possible that the finality is here.
"Any decision to terminate the respirator probably won't be made until (Tuesday) morning. The events of this case may otherwise change that time prognosis. And I'm concerned about his (father's) own health. He's not well and I understand he has a significant heart condition."
Fans also were keeping vigil. At about 3:30 this morning, Dave Paul, a 22-year-old construction worker, and his cousin, wandered up to the front door of the hospital. They already had spent an hour outside Lindbergh's window, just standing and watching, hoping and praying.
Paul was asked why he was there.
"Just to come," he said, his husky New Jersey accent seemingly incongruous with his teary eyes. "He did so much for us, we can do a little for him. It's not much, though."
There wasn't much anyone could do.
In a morning news conference, team president Jay Snider said Lindbergh was a good kid and not a drunkard; that it was too early to think about memorials, and that the Flyers themselves are a family. Afterward, Snider's sister cried on his shoulder, and he joined her.
"We knew he drove fast," Flyers General Manager Bobby Clarke said. "He had been told he shouldn't. We never stopped him, but we should have.
"I could have. I could have done something. You can't baby-sit a man, but we could have done something to try to stop him."
Police were quoted Sunday as saying documents in the glove compartment of the car put its value at $117,300. And, as Clarke had said earlier, "You don't buy a car like that to drive slow."
According to United Press International, one police officer guessed that Lindbergh was traveling as fast as 80 mph when his sports car rammed the concrete steps of a Somerdale, N.J., public school. Skid marks started only 25 feet from the point of impact.
Lindbergh, in his fourth year in the NHL after playing on the 1980 Swedish Olympic team, won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender and led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals last season.
Bob Froese will be the Flyers' starting goalie now, and Clarke was graciously answering unimportant questions about who would be the backup. The Flyers recalled Darren Jensen from Hershey of the American Hockey League on an interim basis. "It does seem a little trivial," said Clarke, who, as a player, was as tough as they come. "And maybe it's a little morbid for me to have to deal with it right now. But, again, it's reality."
Reality also means there are 66 games left in the regular season, including Thursday's in the Spectrum against Edmonton. The Oilers offered to postpone the game, but Clarke and Coach Mike Keenan figured it would do no good to delay getting back to playing hockey.
The team had two days off (one planned, one not), but practiced today at the Coliseum, an ice rink/nightclub where Lindbergh had been with teammates Saturday night before the accident. The players agreed that practicing was not much fun and did not help relieve the grief of losing a friend, but they said they had to do it anyway.
Froese is 27, but looks 17. He said he hadn't even started thinking about what Lindbergh's death would mean to his career. His tear-swelled eyes made it obvious the shock of losing a friend had not passed.
"We needed to sweat," Froese said. "We knew the first time on the ice without Pelle was going to be tough, though every time will be tough. We had to try to get past that.
"I looked down the ice in a drill made for two goalies," he said, "and there was no one down at the other end. That's when I realized he really wasn't going to be around."