Legendary NHL defenseman Borje Salming, who paved the way for players from Europe to play in North America, has passed away. He was 71 years old and had just received an ALS diagnosis.
Salming spent the majority of his career playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who made the announcement of his passing in a statement on Thursday.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs mourn the loss of Börje Salming,” said Brendan Shanahan, Leafs president and alternate governor. “Börje was a pioneer of the game and an icon with an 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 the community.
Our hockey family will always include Börje, who joined the Maple Leafs 50 years ago. His wife Pia, his children Theresa, Anders, Rasmus, Bianca, Lisa, and Sara, as well as his brother Stieg, are all given our sincere sympathies.”
Andres Borje Salming’s distinguished NHL career, which lasted 17 seasons between 1973 and 1990 and included stops in Toronto and Detroit, was marked by 1,148 games and 787 points. Salming, a two-time Norris Trophy runner-up, was the first player of Swedish descent to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, and two years later, he was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. The defenseman was a five-time NHL second-team All-Star between 1975 and 1980 and a member of the NHL’s first team in 1977.
Salming was “The King” of Toronto for 16 of his 17 NHL seasons, policing the Maple Leafs’ blue line with a ferocity and grit that defied widespread beliefs that Swedish skaters like himself were too soft to succeed in the rough NHL. In 1973, Leaf’s scout Gerry McNamara saw Salming playing abroad and was immediately impressed. While in Sweden to scout Inge Hammarstrom, McNamara instead decided to sign Salming as a free agent.
The defender embraced his popularity in Toronto, where he soon won the hearts of the locals. Salming became the first athlete born in Europe to play 1,000 games in January 1998.
Salming continued to play hockey after he retired, and the hockey world was shocked to learn of his ALS diagnosis in August. ALS, a degenerative neurological condition that impairs muscle function, affects the brain and spinal cord cells. Salming’s symptoms first appeared in February, and his health quickly deteriorated after that. Salming stated he had lost his capacity to talk last month.
Salming’s willpower held firm despite his condition. This month’s Hall of Fame weekend in Toronto, when three further Swedish players would be enshrined, was something he was keen to attend. Salming succeeded, and the Maple Leafs paid respect to him before their game against Vancouver.
Borje Salming’s early life.
Borje Salming was born on April 17, 1951 in Salmi, Sweden. Erland, his father, is of Sami descent, and Karin, his mother, is Swedish. Originally named Anders Nikolaus Saari after the village he and his father (Börje’s great-grandfather) had established, Anders Nikolaus changed his last name to Salming.
Salming was only five years old when his miner father was killed in a mine accident. He donned a customary Sami pewter bracelet since he was adamant about his Sami origin. He was the first Sami person to play in a major North American professional sports league.
Borje Salming’s wife and children.
He married his bride Pia Salming in 2016. Theresa, Anders, Rasmus, Bianca, Lisa, and Sara were the six children born to Salming. Heptathlete Bianca Salming is his daughter.