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

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Borje Salming seems to the gang at a pregame ceremony in Toronto, on November 11.The Canadian Press

Borje Salming, a person whose hockey profession is remembered for sophistication, braveness, talent and toughness, died in Sweden on Thursday aged 71, 5 months after being recognized with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to the usually known as Lou Gehrig’s illness.

A genius for the Swedes and different European gamers who adopted him to the NHL, Salming was the primary Swede to be inducted into the Hockey Corridor of Fame, in 1996. He performed for the Maple Leafs for 16 seasons. beginning in 1973 and for the Detroit Crimson Wings. for a yr after that.

As the best defenseman to put on a Toronto jersey, he holds half a dozen staff information and was a six-time all-star in his profession.

Regardless of affected by terminal sickness, Salming’s dying got here as a shock as he had traveled to Toronto lower than two weeks in the past forward of the annual Hockey Corridor of Fame induction recreation. He acquired a standing ovation when he was launched earlier than the Maple Leafs and Penguins confronted off on Nov. 11 and the following night he was the topic of a prolonged, emotional pregame ovation at Scotiabank Area.

Often known as The King, Salming was an excellent Maple Leaf in an period when the staff was not excellent.JOHN McNEILL/The Globe and Mail

Salming’s expensive pal and former teammate, Darryl Sittler, was with him on the ice and helped by elevating one hand to acknowledge the fun that had been pouring out. Tears flowed within the stands and from Salming’s eyes as properly.

“You do not have a soul in case you weren’t moved by it,” Elliotte Friedman, a hockey reporter for Sportsnet and an NHL insider, stated Thursday.

On November 14, three Swedes – Daniel Alfredsson and Daniel and Henrik Sedin – had been launched as Salming and his household watched from a room subsequent to him.

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

“He liked Corridor of Fame weekend and needed to be there,” Friedman stated. “The Corridor of Fame folks informed him he did not should do something he did not wish to do however he participated in virtually all the things. It made a whole lot of sense to him.”

In February, Salming started experiencing uncommon motion in his muscular tissues. In mid-July, he was recognized with ALS, a progressive illness of the nervous system. He revealed the prognosis by means of the Maple Leafs group on August 10 and in October stated his situation had worsened to the purpose the place he had misplaced the power 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 within the recreation and an icon of unbreakable spirit and unquestionable toughness,” Maple Leafs staff president Brendan Shanahan stated in a press release. “He outlined himself by means of his play on the ice and together with his contribution to the group.”

Salming was an excellent prospect for fellow Swedes and different European gamers who adopted him into the NHL.STF/The Canadian Press

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

“It is arduous to course of,” stated William Nylander, Toronto’s Canadian-born Swedish proper wing. “I used to be very stunned. We noticed it just some weeks in the past. It’s totally complicated.”

On the evening of November 12, Nylander participated in a live performance with Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Vancouver Canucks. Salming dropped the puck between them after which Nylander picked it up and handed it to him and gave him a delicate hug.

That evening, six gamers from Sweden made up the Maple Leafs beginning lineup for the primary time in franchise historical past.

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

Salming signed as a free agent with Toronto in the summertime of 1973. Though he had been a star within the Swedish main league for years earlier than, he was anticipated to be tender – a standard prejudice towards gamers from Europe. He took some hits in his first yr however he took as many penalties as he received and altered the notion of overseas gamers.

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

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

“He did all the things properly. It was actually good. “

Salming holds almost each franchise file for Maple Leafs defensemen.Gary Hershorn/The Canadian Press

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman additionally provided excessive reward. He known as Salming “a towering presence and a transformative determine in league historical past.”

“Borje Salming was as powerful bodily and mentally as he was skillfully,” Bettman stated in a press release. “He blazed a path for lots of the biggest gamers in NHL historical past to interrupt by means of.” all of the stereotypes about Europeans that had been widespread in a league that was virtually fully North American earlier than he arrived.

Salming holds almost each franchise file for a Maple Leafs defenseman – together with, targets (148), assists (620) and factors (768). He performed in 1,229 NHL video games, common season and playoffs included, and had his No. 21 jersey retired and raised to the rafters in 2006.

Often known as The King, he was an excellent Maple Leaf in a time when the staff was not excellent. My goodness, it was arduous. As soon as his face was lower open with a skate blade and the wound required 300 stitches. His face appeared like a streetcar map of downtown Toronto.

Ron MacLean, the sports activities broadcaster for CBC because the host is healthier recognized Hockey evening in Canadaremembering how disgusted Canadians had been with Salming when he landed within the NHL.

“The league was so homogenous and it was mysterious,” MacLean stated. “Every little thing about him stunned us. His huge slap, his nice skating … not solely did he should have enjoyable however he was mastered.”

MacLean will always remember the nights of November 11 and 12, when Salming went residence to Toronto for the final time.

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

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