Borje Salming, legendary NHL defenseman and pioneer of European-born players in North America, has died amid a nearly two-year battle with ALS. He was 71 years old.
Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom Salming played the bulk of his career, A statement was issued on Thursday to announce the death of Salming.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs are saddened by the loss of Börje Salming,” said Leafs president and alternate governor Brendan Shanahan. Börje was a pioneer of the game and an icon of unbreakable spirit and unquestioned toughness. He helped open the door for Europeans in the NHL and defined himself through his play on the ice and through his contributions to society.
Börje joined the Maple Leafs 50 years ago and will forever be part of the hockey family. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Pia, his children Teresa, Anders, Rasmus, Bianca, Lisa and Sara, and his brother Stig.”
Salming’s NHL decorating career spanned 17 seasons from 1973 to 1990 between Toronto and Detroit, with a resume of 1,148 games and 787 points. A two-time runner-up for the Norris Cup, Salming became the first Swedish-born player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996 and two years later inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. The blueliner was a first-team NHL All-Star in 1977 and a five-time NHL second-team All-Star between 1975-80.
For 16 of his 17 campaigns in the NHL, Salming was ‘The King’ of Toronto, patrolling the Maple Leafs with a physical strength and grit that flew in the face of common stereotypes that Swedish-born skaters like him were softer. that they can access it. Bruising NHL. Salming made an instant impression even though Leafs scout Jerry McNamara spotted him playing overseas in 1973. McNamara was in Sweden scouting Inge Hammarstrom. He ended up signing Salming to a free agent deal instead.
The defender quickly became a fan favorite in Toronto and his popularity there embraced. In January 1998, Salming became the first European-born player to reach the 1,000-game mark. The following year, Salming signed a one-year free agent deal with the Red Wings to end his career. Salming’s legacy remains in Toronto as the franchise’s defensive leader in assists (620) and points (760) though, and his number 21 has since been retired by the organization.
After his retirement, Salming remained an active part of the hockey community, which was devastated when he learned of his ALS diagnosis in August. A progressive disease of the nervous system, ALS affects the cells of the brain and spinal cord causing a loss of muscle control. Salming originally started experiencing symptoms in February and his health rapidly declined from there. Last month, Salming revealed that he had lost the ability to speak.
While disease attacked his body, Salming’s resolve remained unaltered. He was determined to attend Hall of Fame Weekend in Toronto earlier this month when three more Swedish players were inducted. Salming pulled it off, and the Maple Leafs honored him with a pregame honor before the game against Vancouver. Defeated Salming came to the ice surrounded by family to a standing ovation. The festive Goblin Drop was made by a native of Sweden Oliver Ekman Larson And the William Nylanderand Leafs head coach Sheldon Cave named the starting lineup that included all six Swedish-born Toronto players.
This was the second event in as many nights as Salming was honored. The night before, at the annual Hall of Fame game between Toronto and Pittsburgh, Salming was helped onto the ice by good friend and former teammate Darryl Sittler, who broke down in tears as he watched Salming cheer him on the arena. Salming met with Sittler in September, and said he wanted to be in Toronto for the weekend that would include three Swedish-born Vancouver recruits Henrik, Daniel Sedin and Daniel Alfredsson from Ottawa.
Salming was a pioneer in every sense of the word, making it possible for today’s European-born players to thrive in the North American world.