Hockey and Maple Leafs legend Borje Salming passes away at 71

Borje Salming
Nov 12, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs alumni and Hall of Famer Borje Salming performs the ceremonial puck drop with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) and Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (88) at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced the passing of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Borje Salming on Thursday. He was 71.

The Maple Leafs announced on Aug. 10 that Salming had been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Borje Salming passes away at 71

Borje Salming
Mar 2, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Statues of former Toronto Maple Leafs Tim Horton (center) and Borje Salming outside the front of Scotiabank Arena before a game against the Buffalo Sabres. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

“The Toronto Maple Leafs mourn the loss of Borje Salming,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. “Borje 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.

“Borje joined the Maple Leafs 50 years ago and will forever be a part of our hockey family. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Pia, his children Theresa, Anders, Rasmus, Bianca, Lisa and Sara, and brother Stieg.”

Salming played 16 seasons for the Maple Leafs (1973-89) and one with the Detroit Red Wings (1989-90).

The six-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy runner-up recorded 787 points (150 goals, 637 assists) and had 1,344 penalty minutes in 1,148 games.

Salming was the first player from Sweden to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

His jersey No. 21 was raised to the rafters at Scotiabank Arena in 2006 and officially was retired by the team in 2016.

“A superior all-around defenseman and the first Swedish star ever to play in the League, Borje Salming was as physically and mentally tough as he was skillfully gifted,” commissioner Gary Bettman wrote in a statement. “He blazed the trail that many of the greatest players in NHL history followed while shattering all of the stereotypes about European players that had been prevalent in a League populated almost entirely by North Americans before his arrival in 1973.”

–Field Level Media