On Thursday, November 24th, 2022, the NHL lost legend and Hall of Famer Borje Salming. The 71-year-old from Sweden played for the Toronto Maple Leafs for 16 seasons and holds the record for most assists by a defenceman for the team. Borje also has his number 21 retired in the rafters at Scotiabank Arena, alongside many other notable Maple Leafs like Mats Sundin and Tim Horton.
Statement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the passing of NHL legend Borje Salming. https://t.co/JCndqaRTHo pic.twitter.com/atpam7jmML
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 24, 2022
He is known as one of the greatest NHL players of all time, and Borje did more than play hard on the ice. He paved the way for Swedish and European players in the NHL because most of the players in the league were North American. There was also this misconception that European players did not play with any grit and were too soft to play in the best hockey league in the world. The Europeans were known as more skilled and quicker without being as tough. Borje proved that was false with his strong play and toughness.
Salming once received 250 stitches after accidentally getting stepped on by another player’s skate. Salming even got interviewed after getting stitched up, saying he was lucky to have his eye. If that is not tough, then I don’t know what is.
Sadly, Borje was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, in July 2022. He battled as hard as he could till the very end. On Saturday, November 12th, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted a very emotional tribute for Borje Salming before their game against the Vancouver Canucks.
They honored him and celebrated his career as a pioneer for many European players who play in the NHL today. Salming dropped the puck before the game between two swedes from each team, William Nylander and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. It is very touching to know he lived this before he passed away.
We will remember Borje as someone who shaped the game for players across the pond, and the NHL is better because of him. A fantastic player and an even better human being, Borje, you will be missed by the entire hockey community. Thank you for all you have done for the sport we love dearly.