Borje Salming: A trailblazer with an indomitable spirit who did all of it

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Borje Salming waves to the gang throughout a pregame ceremony on Nov. 11 in Toronto.Canadian Press

Borje Salming, whose hockey profession can be remembered for sophistication, braveness, ability and toughness, died in Sweden on Thursday on the age of 71, 5 months after being recognized with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, generally often called Lou Gehrig’s illness.

A trailblazer for fellow Swedes and different European gamers who adopted him within the NHL, Salming was the primary Swede to be inducted into the Hockey Corridor of Fame in 1996. He performed for the Maple Leafs and Detroit Purple Wings for 16 seasons starting in 1973. For one yr thereafter.

The best defenseman to ever don a Toronto jersey, he holds half a dozen staff information and was a six-time All Star throughout his profession.

Even though he had a terminal sickness, Salming’s dying got here as a shock as a result of he had traveled to Toronto two weeks earlier than the Hockey Corridor of Fame’s annual induction recreation. 11 Nov He obtained a standing ovation when he was launched earlier than kickoff between the Maple Leafs and Penguins on Sunday, and was the topic of a prolonged emotional pregame tribute at Scotiabank Enviornment the next night.

Generally known as The King, Salming was an amazing Maple Leaf throughout a time when the staff wasn’t excellent.John McNeil/The Globe and Mail

Salming’s expensive buddy and former teammate, Darryl Sittler, went out on the ice with him and helped him elevate a hand to acknowledge the enjoyment that was falling. There have been tears within the stands and in Salming’s eyes.

“In the event you do not transfer via it, you do not have a soul,” Elliott Friedman, hockey reporter for Sportsnet and NHL insider, stated Thursday.

On November 14, three Swedes – Daniel Alfredsson and Daniel and Henrik Sedin – had been joined as Salming and his household watched from an adjoining room.

On an evening honoring Borge Salming, the Leafs nice will get his personal Lou Gehrig second

“He liked Corridor of Fame weekend and needed to be there,” Friedman stated. “Corridor of Fame individuals instructed him he did not wish to do something he did not wish to do however he participated in virtually every part. It meant rather a lot to him. “

In February, Salming started experiencing uncommon twitches in his muscle tissue. In mid-July, he was recognized with ALS, a progressive illness of the nervous system. He revealed the prognosis via the Maple Leafs group on August 10 and stated in October that his situation had deteriorated to the purpose the place he had misplaced the flexibility to talk and was depending on a feeding tube.

His dying was introduced collectively by his household and the Maple Leafs.

“Borje was a pioneer of the sport and an icon with unparalleled spirit and plain toughness,” Maple Leafs staff president Brendan Shanahan stated in an announcement. “He outlined himself via his play on the ice and his contribution to society.”

Salming was a trailblazer for fellow Swedes and different European gamers who adopted him to the NHL.STF/The Canadian Press

Toronto gamers had been knowledgeable of Salming’s dying throughout a staff assembly earlier than observe in St. Paul, Minn. The Maple Leafs play the Minnesota Wild on Friday afternoon.

“It is onerous to course of,” stated Toronto’s Canadian-born Swedish proper wing William Nylander. “It actually stunned me. We noticed him just some weeks in the past. It’s totally disturbing.”

On the night time of November 12, Nylander participated in a ceremonial puck drop with Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Vancouver Canucks. Salming threw the puck between them, after which Nylander scooped it up and handed it to him, giving him a mild hug.

That night time, the Maple Leafs’ opening lineup featured six Swedish gamers for the primary time in franchise historical past.

“It is actually unhappy information,” stated Erik Kallgren, a Swede who was in Toronto’s internet in opposition to Vancouver. “I am glad the group took the time to deliver him to Toronto and present how a lot they admire him. I really feel for his household and everybody near him.

Salming signed with Toronto as a free agent in the summertime of 1973. Though he had been a star in Sweden’s prime league for a few years, he was anticipated to be gentle – a prejudice normally held in opposition to gamers from Europe. He took a couple of beatings in his first yr however gave as a lot punishment as he received and adjusted the notion of overseas gamers.

Maple Leafs nice Paul Henderson, who was an 11-year NHL veteran when Salming arrived in Toronto, remembers the 22-year-old as a bodily specimen.

“He had one of the best physique of anybody I’ve ever seen,” Henderson stated. “He was 5 % physique fats and I assumed, ‘Who is that this man?’

“He did every part properly. It was actually spectacular. “…

Salming holds practically each franchise document for Maple Leafs protection.Gary Hershorn / The Canadian Press

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman additionally supplied a glowing tribute. He known as Salming “a towering presence and a transformative determine within the league’s historical past.”

“Borge Salming was as bodily and mentally robust as he was artistically gifted,” Bateman stated in an announcement. “He blazed a path adopted by lots of the biggest gamers in NHL historical past, shattering all of the stereotypes about Europeans that had prevailed in a league virtually solely North American earlier than his arrival.”

Salming holds practically each franchise document for a Maple Leafs defenseman – together with targets (148), assists (620) and factors (768). He performed in 1,229 NHL video games, together with the common season and playoffs, and had his jersey quantity 21 retired and raised to the rafters in 2006.

Generally known as The King, he was an amazing Maple Leaf throughout a time when the staff wasn’t excellent. My goodness, it was robust. As soon as his face was reduce open by a skate blade and the wound required 300 stitches. His face regarded like a streetcar map of downtown Toronto.

Ron McLean, a CBC sportscaster, is credited because the host Hockey Evening in CanadaSalming remembers how enamored the Canadiens had been when he landed within the NHL.

“The league was very cohesive and he was mysterious,” McLean stated. “All the pieces about him shocked us. His huge slap, his elegant skating … he not solely took over our recreation, however he mastered it.”

McLean will not overlook the nights of November 11 and November 12, when Salming went house to Toronto for the final time.

“These two nights had been magical,” McLean stated. “To see the love in his eyes for his captain Darryl Sittler, stated all of it.”

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