“With the death of Borje Salming, the ice hockey world did not only lose a pioneer and game changer but also a great person. A top defender of his time with braveness and mental toughness, Salming broke stereotypes during a time when making the NHL remained a mere dream for even the most skilled European players. He became the first NHL star from the continent and opened the door for hundreds of players who crossed the ocean after him,” said IIHF President Luc Tardif. “Despite suffering from severe illness, he showed his dedication to the global hockey family this month at recent events in Stockholm and Toronto, which became an emotional farewell. Today is a sad day for hockey and we send our deepest condolences to his family.”
Salming was a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was named to the IIHF’s Centennial All-Star Team in 2008 during the Federation’s 100th anniversary, and just last week he received a similar honour from the Swedish Federation during its 100-year celebrations. In 2017, when the NHL celebrated its centennial, Salming was on the league’s list of top 100 players of all time.
The honours were earned over a career that spanned two decades, but what is still not easy to understand and accept is how this marvel of an athlete, who was as strong and physically perfect during his career, could be so ravaged by such a cruel illness as ALS.
“Borje was a pioneer of the game and an icon with an unbreakable spirit and unquestioned toughness,” said Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan in a statement. “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.”
“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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “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…