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Maple Leafs legend Börje Salming dies at 71 after battle with ALS


Maple Leafs legend and European hockey icon Börje Salming has died, the team announced in a statement Thursday. He was 71 years old.

“The Toronto Maple Leafs mourn the loss of Börje Salming,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. “Börje was a game pioneer and icon with an unbreakable spirit and unquestioned tenacity. He helped open the door for Europeans in the NHL and defined himself through his play on the ice and his contributions to the community.

“Börje joined the Maple Leafs 50 years ago and will always be part of our hockey family. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Pia, his children Theresa, Anders, Rasmua, Bianca, Lisa and Sara, and his brother Stieg.

Just two weeks ago, Salming – who was diagnosed with ALS in July – was honored with an emotional ceremony at Scotiabank Arena, taking part in a face-off ceremony with Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe starting a formation composed of six Swedish players. Salming could not speak, a product of disease.

Borje Salming playing for the Maple Leafs in 1979.
Getty Images

“No one will ever forget that moment, that game, that night,” fellow Leafs Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler said, according to NHL.com. “That’s what Börje wanted. Even months ago, after being diagnosed, he told us he wanted to be here for Hall of Fame weekend. And here it is.

“Being here by his side tonight was a special night that I will always remember. And I believe hockey fans will be too.

Salming, the first Swedish player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, is the Leafs franchise record holder for assists.

Maple Leafs legend Börje Salming dies at 71 after battle with ALS

Borje Salming at the Maple Leafs ceremony on November 11, 2022.


Maple Leafs legend Börje Salming dies at 71 after battle with ALS

Borje Salming at the Maple Leafs ceremony on November 11, 2022.


When Salming first arrived in the NHL, Swedes were widely considered soft and unworthy of playing North American hockey. Salming, facing relentless low blows, dealt a blow to that reputation.

“You think of the Maple Leafs,” Keefe told reporters two weeks ago, “you think of him.”

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