STOPPED FOR US’
Both Tocchet and teammate Mark Howe said they most remembered Lindbergh’s red Porsche, and “ how shiny and beautiful it was.”
“ He wasn’t like other goaltenders, in the sense that every day he was casual and loose,” said Howe, now the director of pro scouting for the Red Wings. “ That one year ( 1981), he couldn’t stop a beach ball. He was sent back to Maine. He came back the next year like a totally different player. He had a great mental attitude.”
“ We were a real close team,” Tocchet said. “ He was just an infectious guy on our team. Everybody loved him. He was easygoing. Usually, with some goalies, you were nervous to be around. With him, you could walk on his pads, you could touch his stick. Myself as a rookie, he made me feel welcomed.”
Things were going so right for the Flyers in November 1985. They started the season 12-2-0 and were celebrating a Saturday night win over Boston, their 10th in a row. Lindbergh won the Vezina Trophy the previous season as the NHL’s top goaltender, when he carried the Flyers to a Stanley Cup finals loss to Edmonton.
“ I will never forget walking out of the Spec- trum that night,” Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. “ I was thinking that this was the best team we ever had. I was thinking they would be even better than the Broad Street Bullies. Pelle was the backbone of the team. The contrast between that night and the next morning was extreme.” The Flyers, that year, never really recovered. The emotionally exhaust
ed group skated to a 53-23-4 record under Mike Keenan, the best record in the Wales Conference, but fell in the first round of the playoffs.
“ It was very difficult,” said Brian Propp, the team’s leading scorer. “ We started off the season very well, but when you lose a friend and a rising star at the same time, it’s on your mind.”
“ The world just stopped for us,” Tocchet said. “ Things were going good. It just stopped everything. Looking back, I was a walking zombie.”
Now, 25 years later, Tocchet still thinks about Lindbergh occasionally. Lindbergh’s memory is honored every year with the awarding of the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy to the most improved Flyer, as voted by his teammates.
“ There will be long stretches where you don’t think about him and then somebody will bring his name up and all of a sudden you start reflecting and he’ll be in your mind,” Tocchet said. “ It’s almost like a DVD, your memories start spinning and all of a sudden you remember funny times in practices, jokes in the lockerroom, or his beautiful fiancee.”
After her life was turned upside down by one late night at the Coliseum, a red Porsche and a wall in Somerdale, Pietzsch-Somnell stayed in her and Lindbergh’s South Jersey home for the remainder of the season.
The following summer, she moved into a small apartment in Beverly Hills, Calif., with the assistance of Snider, to live near an old friend from Sweden.
“ I didn’t knowwhat I wanted to do,” she said.
“ It was very hard. When something like that happens, you are shocked. You feel cut off from everything else. You don’t know what to do.
“ Finally, after a few years, I was ready to go home to Sweden.”
Just a year after losing Lindbergh, Pietzsch-Somnell lost her mother in what she described as “ similar circumstances.” And that’s when Lindbergh’s mother stepped in.
Even after 25 years, Pietzsch-Somnell and Lindbergh’s mother, Anna-Lise, remain close. The two were just together last week. In fact, in Lindbergh’s childhood home, pictures of the Somnells’ three children hang on a wall beside pictures of Anna-Lise’s grandchildren.
In addition to Jens, Pietzsch-Somnell has two daughters, Mikaela, 20, and Petra, 18.
“ We have a very special relationship,” Pietzsch-Somnell said of Anna-Lise. “ Ever since my mother passed away, she has been like a second mother to me. We are very close.” Pietzsch-Somnell said the hardest part was moving on to find someone new. She was 27, a year older than Lindbergh when he passed. They were both so young.
“ I wished we had children, so that he would live on,” Pietzsch-Somnell said. “ But I know that his memory still lives on. It’s hard. I still think about him. It’s upsetting. The truth is that time goes on.”
Pelle Lindbergh, who was a rising star at the time of this death in 1985, died from injuries suffered in a crash that turned his Porsche into a pile of twisted metal and glass. His car hit a wall going 80 m. p. h.