Young hockey players in Fort Frances dream about playing in the NHL—or even the Olympics—one day.
Chris Lindberg made both those dreams come true and he’s about to get deserved recognition for it.
The Fort native will be inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in Thunder Bay this Saturday after an on-ice career that took him from university hockey and the minor-league grind of the ECHL and AHL to stints with the Calgary Flames and Quebec Nordiques, followed by a decade’s worth of adventures travelling and playing in Europe.
“This was especially out of the blue,” the 48-year-old, who now lives in Calgary, said about finding out he had been chosen to enter the hall.
“I was in a little bit of shock, especially since I retired coming up on 10 years now,” he noted. “Time flies.
“It’s just a great honour,” he added. “I didn’t even know there was such a hall.”
Lindberg will attend the ceremony with his son, Colton, while his wife and daughter stay behind in Calgary to attend previous obligations.
He’ll stop in Fort Frances so he can bring his mother, Madeleine, to the ceremony.
But the former NHL’er regrets he won’t have another family member on hand for the occasion.
“It’s too bad my Dad isn’t alive,” Lindberg said about his father, long-time local fastball umpire Gus Lindberg.
“I’m sure he’d be out there in full force.”
Lindberg was a talented forward on the Muskie boys’ hockey team in the mid-1980s before moving to the Estevan Bruins (SJHL) for one season.
He then played two seasons for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs before joining the Virginia Lancers (ECHL), then moving on to AHL stops with the Binghamton Whalers and Springfield Indians.
Lindberg made the Canadian national men’s team in 1990, eventually catching the eye of the Flames, where he signed as an undrafted free agent in 1991.
He split his time in the 1991-92 season between the Flames and the national team, which he helped earn a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France—well before elite NHL players were brought into the fold.
After playing the next season in Calgary, Lindberg ended up with the Quebec Nordiques for 37 games in 1993-94 before being sent down to the Cornwall Aces (AHL).
For Lindberg, that was the sign it was time to look elsewhere to extend his hockey career after collecting 42 points in 116 NHL games.
He spent most of the next 10 seasons playing professionally in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria before retiring in 2004.
But recollections of his hometown hockey memories always will hold a special place in his heart.
“I remember going to Muskie games as a kid, where they would get a full house when they would play the [International Falls] Broncos and then eventually becoming a Muskie myself,” Lindberg recalled.
“To play competitive hockey with that many people cheering you on, it doesn’t matter what level it’s at,” he added.
“Every time, it’s overwhelming. I just loved playing the game.”
Lindberg saluted former Muskie coach Terry Ogden for providing the structure to his game that he eventually realized he needed.
“He was probably one of the toughest disciplinarian coaches I had,” noted Lindberg, which is no small point when considering he also played for the likes of Olympic coach Dave King and spirited Nordiques’ bench boss Pierre Page.
“If you don’t have discipline, not just in sport but in the working world, it’s hard to go anywhere,” he reasoned.
Other sharp-edged coaches in Lindberg’s life with hearts of gold were Dave Egan and Darrell Webb.
Lindberg also credited his great-aunt, Elsie Scott, for being a good influence on him.
“She was like my grandma,” he said.
“She was so proud and makes these scrapbooks where she would take pictures of me playing on TV and put them in the book looking all blurry.”
Lindberg will make another trip here next August as his place in the regional hall automatically grants him induction into the Fort Frances Sports Hall of Fame.