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Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask

August 13, 2009, 10:23 AM ET [ Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Pelle Lindbergh biography I co-authored with Swedish sportswriter Thomas Tynander is now available for pre-order via Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

On September 29, Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask will be released via Middle Atlantic Press and will also be available in area book stores.

Periodically during the season, I will post stories that were cut from the final manuscript. Strictly for reasons of keeping the book to a reasonable length there were a lot of entertaining stories about Pelle that were cut. But many of them are too good (at least in my opinion) not to be retold.

Here's one of my favorites:

***

Pelle's accent is a source of amusement and imitation for his Maine Mariners teammates. One day on the bus, he asks teammate Doug Gillen if it would be possible to get some batteries for his newly purchased Walkman.

Teammate Greg Adams overhears.

“Hey, Gilly, would eet bay poo-si-ble to get some batt-err-ees?” Adams parrots in a mock Swedish accent.

Rather than being self-conscious, Pelle laughs along with everyone else. He repeats the question, this time intentionally exaggerating his pronunciation and sending everyone into fits of laughter.

“Gille! Wud eeeet baaay POOOO-sih-BLE to geht suuuuhm batt-ERRRR-eees?” Lindbergh says with sing-song enunciation only slightly more intelligible than the gibberish spoken by the Swedish Chef of Muppet Show fame.

In reality, Pelle's English improves quickly. His play on the ice and his gift for making others smile win him the respect of his teammates. Before long, his charm and sense of humor help him bridge any cultural gaps.

The Mariners roster is a typical AHL blend of seasoned minor leaguers such as Wayne Schaab and Clark, former NHLers trying to get back up to the top level (such as defenseman Dave Logan), and young players on the rise. There's more turnover on an AHL roster over the course of a season, but the Mariners have a relatively stable nucleus.

“The Mariners had a good group of guys, and Pelle had fun,” Björn Neckman recalls. “He joked around, whenever he got a chance - pain in the butt kind of humor. He could ride in a car with someone who said ‘be careful with the door,’ and he'd slam the car door so hard, the whole car shook. Another time, he disconnected some spark plugs so the car lurched like an old sewing machine. But no one ever got angry, because he always did it with a big smile. He was well-liked.”

The Mariners are one of the best teams in the AHL. The Flyers invest more in the upkeep of their farm team, both in terms of on-ice and off-ice resources, than contempory Swedish Elite league franchises spend on their own senior teams (much less their junior squads). The Mariners dominate the Northern Division, and only the Southern Division leading Hershey Bears have a deeper and more talented lineup.

Pelle has never been a stickler for hard conditioning. His legs are thick and powerful but he more or less eats what he pleases and doesn’t enjoy weight training or riding a stationary bike. Before long, he also falls back into his old on-ice practice habits. He stays in shape via lots of game action, but Pelle soon realizes that the marathon-like North American hockey season is much more physically demanding than the season at home.

Like every AHL team, Maine plays a schedule based on the NHL model. Including playoffs and preseason, the team can play upwards of 100 games per season. On a typical day without a game, McCammon has the players report for practice at 10 A.M. and remain on the ice for 60 to 90 minutes. Pelle is not above cutting corners at practice.

Kevin Cady recalls, “Pelle really hated to practice. He came out at the last moment and took his time putting on his equipment. Often, he'd oversleep.”
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