Maple Leafs Icon Börje Salming Dies at 71 after ALS Fight

Borje Salming, a legend on the Maple Leafs and a hockey icon in Europe, has died, the team said in a statement on Thursday. He was 71. “The Toronto Maple Leafs mourn the loss of Börje Salming,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said 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 his community contributions.

“Börje 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, Rasmua, Bianca, Lisa and Sara, and his brother Stieg.”

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Salming was diagnosed with ALS in July. Just two weeks ago, he was honored with an emotional ceremony at Scotiabank Arena. He took part in a ceremonial puck drop, and Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe put six Swedish players in the starting lineup. Salming could not speak, a product of the disease.

“Nobody will ever forget this moment, this game, this night,” Darryl Sittler, another Leafs Hall of Famer, said, per NHL.com. “This is what Börje wanted. Even months ago, after he was diagnosed, he told us he wanted to be here for Hall of Fame weekend. And here he is.

“To be here standing beside him tonight was a special evening that I’ll always remember. And I believe hockey fans will, too.” Salming is the Leafs’ all-time leader in assists and was the first Swedish player to get into the Hall of Fame.

When Salming first joined the NHL, most people thought Swedes were weak and not good enough to play hockey in North America. Salming took a hammer to that reputation when people kept making cheap shots at him.

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

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