Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki spreads inspiration to Flyers

Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki spreads inspiration to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Ron Hextall wasn’t sure if he should tell this part of the story.

But then he did.

With Ryan Straschnitzki visiting Flyers Skate Zone on Friday, Hextall revealed a side of himself not often seen. Straschnitzki is one of 13 survivors from the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16 people April 6 in Connaught, Saskatchewan. He was in Voorhees with his father, Tom.

The story began with Hextall finding out Straschnitzki was coming to Philadelphia for his rehab and leaving Tom Straschnitzki a message about the organization’s desire to meet his son.

About one minute after leaving the voicemail, Hextall received a text message from Andrew MacDonald, who heard the Straschnitzkis were coming and said he wanted to meet Ryan.

It all snowballed from there.

“I don’t know if I should tell this story,” Hextall said, “but … the first time we went over to the hospital, Tom told us that A-Mac offered him his house, his car.”

Stories like this remind us of the power sports have. The community that reaches far beyond the gates of your home, and it’s a reminder of how small the hockey world really is.

Straschnitzki is not a Flyers prospect nor even a Flyers fan. The Flames fandom runs deep in his veins as he grew up in Airdrie, Alberta, about a 30-minute drive from Calgary. He was a defenseman for the Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He will never play hockey again, at least not in the way he’s accustomed to — sledge hockey potentially could be an option. He is paralyzed from the chest down.

In fact, according to the Toronto Sun, the Flames are discussing hiring Straschnitzki. On Friday, Straschnitzki said he’s focused on recovery but working in hockey down the line is an option.

“Hockey is my life,” he said. “I’ve grown up talking about it, living it and playing. It’s helped me through a lot of things. Say you had a bad test in school and you’re frustrated, so you go shoot pucks for an hour, just kind of relieve that stress. I can’t say much more about it.”

For the past month, Straschnitzki has been in Philadelphia rehabbing at Shriners Hospitals for Children. He was supposed to be in Philly for six to eight weeks but has made enough progress that he’s now scheduled to head home next weekend. He hasn’t been back in seven months dating back before the accident.

Straschnitzki’s rehab consists of waking up in the morning and setting aside two hours to prepare — shower, etc. — for a full day of physical rehab to build up his core muscles. He breaks for lunch and then has two more sessions. While he’s made progress, there are still restrictions on his back.

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

The tight-knit hockey community that spans far beyond the professional world is also how Straschnitzki’s journey brought him to Philadelphia. According to Tom Straschnitzki, they discovered Shriners Hospital from a waitress they knew at Overtime Lounge in Airdrie.

“It’s a bar that overlooks the ice,” Tom Straschnitzki said. “The parents would sit, have some pop and watch the kids. Our waitress who we’ve known for five years quit and went to work at the Airdrie Boys & Girls Club. Her boss got in contact and said the Shriners are willing to help.”

Ryan Straschnitzki received a tour of Flyers Skate Zone, had lunch with Hextall and other members of the Flyers’ front office and met some of the team’s prospects. Even Samuel Morin, who’s recovering from a torn ACL, made the trip to Voorhees to meet Straschnitzki. Some Flyers are coming to town this weekend and will meet him, according to Hextall.

Hextall, following seeing Straschnitzki speak, was visibly emotional. Shortly after beginning, Hextall teared up and paused for 23 seconds.

It was raw emotion and a sign of how close to home the Humboldt tragedy hit the hockey world — players, organizations, fans and media. Once Hextall collected himself, he continued.

“He’s an incredible young man,” Hextall said. “You guys just witnessed it, but to be around him to see the attitude of a young man whose life has essentially been turned upside down.

“I remember when the accident happened for myself and everybody else involved in hockey, including you guys, it … it hit home. Most of us have ridden buses, and still ride buses and for something like that to happen, it hit really close to home for everybody.

“You really see the good in people. The support that not only Ryan and Tom and their family’s got but all the other kids as well, from the National Hockey League and the media and just random people donating money, sometimes we see the bad in the human spirit, [but] to see something like this, it’s really been incredible. Ryan, he’s an inspiring young man. He’s special.

“You know what, you have a bad day, and you think things are going bad for you and then you look at a kid like Ryan with a positive attitude. You just give your head a shake and say, ‘Life’s not so bad. You better turn your attitude here a little bit.’

“It’s been inspiring for myself. I don’t want to speak for everybody else, but I don’t know how you can’t be inspired to be around the young man.”

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Flyers' Oskar Lindblom diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma

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Flyers' Oskar Lindblom diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma

Oskar Lindblom, a 23-year-old forward on the Flyers, is expected to miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones.

Below is a statement from Flyers president of hockey operations and general manager Chuck Fletcher:

Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom has been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma by leading specialists at the University of Pennsylvania. He will undergo further testing and evaluation next week and begin treatment immediately thereafter. He is not expected to return to play for the remainder of the season. The Flyers will do everything possible to support Oskar and assist him in securing the best care available. Out of respect for Oskar and his family, the team will have no further comment at this time and asks that Oskar be afforded a period of privacy so that he may focus his efforts on his treatment and a return to full health.

Lindblom, a native of Sweden, had been one of the Flyers’ top players through 30 games, scoring 11 goals and 18 points.

He was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft and has blossomed into a promising player.

Always smiling, positive and humble, Lindblom is beloved by his teammates. His rise from a fifth-round pick to a difference-making player has been a product of hard work.

After scoring 17 goals last season, sixth most among NHL rookies, Lindblom went back to Gävle, Sweden, to train all summer with his old team Brynäs IF.

"It’s like five minutes from my house," Lindblom said during training camp.

“It was nice to be back home for a bit, just relaxed, had some time with friends and family, so it was great.”

It didn't take long for the Flyers' new coaching staff to fall in love with Lindblom's game as the winger raced out of the chute, scoring in the team's season opener and playing a major role ever since.

“I didn’t know much about Oskar before coming here, but what I’ve found is a real smart, two-way player, hard-working young man," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Oct. 26.

In the summer of 2017, Lindblom talked about his climb within the Flyers' system.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said.

By the age of 23, he has more than made it on the highest level.

Below is the outpouring of support for Lindblom, via social media:

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Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip


From the moment it was announced that Oskar Lindblom would miss Wednesday night's game, the Flyers' chances at Pepsi Center felt bleak.

No Lindblom, no Travis Konecny and facing the NHL's highest-scoring team in its building was not a promising script for the Flyers, who lost to the Avalanche, 3-1.

In stretches this season, the Flyers have struggled to bury goals. And that has been with Lindblom and Konecny — their two leading goal-scorers at 11 apiece — in the lineup.

The Flyers (17-9-5) did some good things but Colorado finished plays behind its world class talent up top.

The Avalanche (20-8-3) are on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) in which they've scored 4.13 goals per game.

• Without Konecny (concussion) and Lindblom (upper body), the Flyers had difficulty putting the puck in the net. They were going to have to put up some goals against the Avalanche, who entered scoring an NHL-best 3.70 goals per game. For the second time in the last three games, the Flyers scored only one goal.

The lone tally came from Claude Giroux when the Flyers were trailing 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

• Following a first period in which they survived, especially in the back half of it thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers actually played a solid second period. At one point during the middle stanza, the Flyers were outshooting Colorado 11-0.

But as the Flyers kept pushing to no avail, the Avalanche changed the whole complexion of the period with one play by their two best weapons. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hooked up for a nasty marker to make it 2-0 with 3:55 left in the period, a deflating goal to allow for the Flyers (see highlights).

Considering Colorado was 14-0-1 when leading after the middle period, the Flyers were in a serious hole, even after a hard-working period.

• Hart, who entered 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts, faced the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

He made a highlight-reel save and gave the Flyers a fighting chance in tough circumstances.

The 21-year-old has been impressive during the first period all season long, allowing the Flyers to find their legs and rhythm. He converted 12 of his 24 saves in the opening stanza against Colorado.

On the Avalanche's first-period goal, Scott Laughton won a defensive zone faceoff but the Flyers failed to clear the puck, resulting in Matt Calvert's tally.

Rantanen added his second goal early in the third period and that was pretty much the game.

Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz, who came in 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over his last eight games (six starts), finished with 32 stops.

• When Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day) is ready to return, Robert Hagg should be the odd man out on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere has found some of his offensive mojo and Myers has shown way too much promise to be sitting when healthy.

A stay-at-home guy like Hagg was far too noticeable against the Avalanche. He committed a penalty and was a minus-2 in 15:21 minutes.

• David Kase was summoned to Denver this morning to make his NHL debut and become the ninth rookie to play for the Flyers this season

The 22-year-old winger had a nice scoring chance and two shots in 7:47 minutes. 

• The Flyers head to the old stomping grounds of general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when they visit the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Fletcher was the GM in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018 and Flahr was his AGM from 2010 to 2018.

The Flyers have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Oct. 27-29.

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