Toronto Maple Leafs legend Borje Salming was honoured ahead of Friday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of Hall of Fame weekend and received a special tribute before Saturday's matchup with the Vancouver Canucks.
Salming, who became the first Swedish player to be inducted into the Hall in 1996, travelled to Toronto to attend the festivities. He was accompanied onto the ice on Friday by fellow Maple Leafs greats Mats Sundin and Darryl Sittler and received a lengthy standing ovation. A teary-eyed Sittler helped Salming raise his arm in appreciation of the fans.
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Saturday's ceremony was dedicated exclusively to Salming, with a video montage recapping his incredible career. Salming then dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between Swedes William Nylander of the Maple Leafs and Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Canucks. Toronto's starting lineup featured six Swedish players as another nod to Salming.
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The 71-year-old is battling ALS and recently revealed he’s lost the ability to speak.
It’s a monumental weekend for Swedish hockey, as Daniel Alfredsson, along with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, headline this year’s Hall of Fame class. Roberto Luongo, Finnish women’s superstar Riikka Sallinen and the late Herb Carnegie round out the rest of the 2022 cohort.
"It's very clear to me that he's a proud Maple Leaf," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Salming prior to Friday’s game. "I was young through a lot of his career and a lot of it before I was even born but you still feel his impact, even more so now in my current role."
"He's a big part of the tradition and the history here,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares added.
Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin also spoke to reporters on the impact Salming has had on him as a fellow Swedish player, telling reporters that he took him to lunch in Stockholm in 2018 and warned him about the unforgiving Toronto media. Sandin added that Salming has the entire support of the Maple Leafs in his battle with ALS.
“He’s an icon back in Sweden, here in Toronto. I got a chance to meet him a couple of times and talk to him. He’s just an icon and a guy you just look up to,” Sandin said.
Sandin also revealed that Salming was his dad’s favourite player growing up.
Salming made his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs in 1973-74 and quickly emerged as one of the best defencemen of his generation. He played 16 seasons with the Maple Leafs, earning six All-Star selections while recording 148 goals and 768 points with the franchise before playing his final year with the Detroit Red Wings in 1988-89.
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