Borje Salming, the Toronto Maple Leafs Hall of Fame defenseman, the NHL’s first Swedish star and the pioneer of many European players who changed the face of the league, died Thursday in Nacka, Sweden. he was 71 years old.
Leafs said the cause was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said: in a statement Salming was described as “one of the greatest players in NHL history, shattering all stereotypes about European players prevalent in a league that was almost entirely North American before his arrival in 1973. He paved the way for many players.”
Salming, who played 16 seasons with the Leafs, his last season with the Detroit Red Wings, was named to the NHL’s first All-Star Team in 1976-77 and was named to the second All-Star Team five times. He was twice runner-up in the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s leading defenseman, falling behind Larry Robinson of the Montreal Canadiens each time. In 1996, he became the first Swede to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I was actually crying when they called me,” Summing recalls in a video from 2017 for “100 Greatest NHL Players from Molson Canadians.“I showed Canadians that hockey can be played.”
In 1,099 regular season games for Toronto, Samming led the Leafs in goals (148), points (768), playoff points (49) and set a franchise record for most assists (620). However, his team never made it to the finals of his Cup against Stanley.
A good shot blocker, Salming was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017, the year the league celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Anders Borje Salming was born on April 17, 1951 in the northern Swedish city of Kiruna, the son of Erland and Karin Salming. When he was five years old, his father died in a mining accident.
The Maple Leafs Samming in May 1973 after scouts discovered him and believed he could succeed in a North American style of hockey that featured a hard-hitting game, as opposed to finesse-oriented European players. I made a contract with
“The opponent abused him. His body was covered in worms, but he just said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.'” With Leafs told NHLcom after Salming’s death.
“I hit a lot of cheap shots, but that was just part of the game,” Salming said in Molson’s video.
For all the talk that European hockey players of his time were soft, Salming was anything but. In November 1986, Detroit’s Gerald skated his Gallant (now Rangers coach) blade absorbed into his unprotected face, a wound that took an estimated 250 stitches to close. Two weeks later, with a visor on, Salming resumed his activities.
Samming represented Sweden in four International Ice Hockey World Championships, three Canadian Cups and the 1992 Winter Olympics. He was inducted into the Federation’s Hall of Fame in 1998 and was named to his team’s All-Star in 2008 on his centenary. The team honored his six best players in the history of international ice hockey.
Salming flew from Sweden to Toronto with his family in early November to receive additional treatment, and also attended the Hall of Fame induction ceremony held there. Sammings visited the Leafs’ Scotiabank he arena when Toronto played against the Vancouver Canucks on November 12. The Leafs showed a video tribute to Summing. The Leafs started an all-Swedish line-up to honor him that night.
Retired Summing’s number 21 jersey hangs from the rafters of Scotiabank Arena.
Summing’s survivors include his wife Pia. Children Teresa, Anders, Rasmus, Bianca, Lisa and Sarah. and brother, Stig.
When the Leafs faced the Minnesota Wild in Friday’s road game, players wore patches honoring Salming. Reflecting the colors of the Swedish flag, “BORJE” is painted in yellow letters on a blue maple leaf with a yellow crown. The crown was a reminder of Salming’s nickname, The King.