On Thursday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced the passing of team icon and Swedish/European hockey legend Börje Salming.
He was 71.
The very first Swedish member of the Hockey Hall of Fame (1996) was diagnosed with ALS back in July, and his diagnosis went public a month later. By October, Salming was actually no longer able to speak as his condition rapidly worsened.
The Maple Leafs acted swiftly and honoured No. 21 on November 12 in a Saturday Night game against the visiting Vancouver Canucks.
Outstanding tribute to Borje Salming pregame. pic.twitter.com/eKMZNFYY9r
— PenguinsChronicles (@PensChronicles) November 12, 2022
An emotional Salming watched a video tribute on the Scotiabank Arena jumbotron, before dropping the puck in a ceremonial face-off between opposing Swedes William Nylander and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Leafs then started an all-Swedish starting six in his honour.
He passed 12 days later.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs mourn the loss of Börje Salming,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan wrote in a statement. “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.”
Salming’s No. 21 sweater has been hung from the rafters in Toronto since 2017, three months before he was included with the NHL’s list of Top-100 players of all time.
Beginning his career with the Leafs in 1973, Salming went on to put up 150 goals and 787 points in 1,148 career NHL games, while adding 1,344 penalty minutes. He is still the Leafs’ all-time assists leader (620). Salming was a six-time NHL all-star over the course of his career.
Salming was the fourth Leaf to see his likeness emblazoned in Legends Row at Maple Leafs Square alongside fellow stars Johnny Bower, Darryl Sittler and Ted Kennedy outside of Scotiabank Arena.
“Börje joined the Maple Leafs 50 years ago and will forever be a part of our hockey family,” Shanahan continued. “We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Pia, his children Theresa, Anders, Rasmus, Bianca, Lisa and Sara and brother Stieg.”