Anders Börje Salming was born in Kiruna, Sweden on April 17, 1951.
Börje was greatly influenced by his older brother Stig who played in the Swedish junior hockey system. Salming’s presence at the blue line combined with his impressive stick handling made him a top prospect who played for the Swedish National Junior Team and later represented his country at the 1972 and 1973 World Hockey Championships.
It was while he was playing in the Swedish Elite League that Salming was spotted by Leafs scout Gerry McNamara. On May 12th, 1973 Salming and fellow Swede Inge Hammarstrom agreed to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, paving the way for a flood of future European prospects making their way to the NHL.
Salming’s NHL debut was on October 10th 1973 against the Sabres (interestingly the same game that saw the NHL debut of fellow Leaf Lanny McDondald). On that night Salming had a strong showing and was picked the Molson Cup first star of the game.
At the time European players were seen to lack the toughness to compete in the NHL – Salming sent a clear message about his toughness by dropping to the ice to block a shot with 10 seconds left in his debut game … even though the Leafs had the win locked up with a 7:4 lead.
Salming, nicknamed The King, quickly established himself as a leader and together with Darryl Sittler became the face of the Leafs and to this day remains one of the most popular players to don the Blue & White.
Börje went on to establish himself as one of the NHL’s elite blue-liners of his era. His Hall of Fame career spanned 17 NHL seasons and saw him become the first European player to play 1,000 NHL games. Börje played 1,148 regular season NHL games, scoring 150 goals and adding 637 assists for 787 points. He also collected 1,344 penalty minutes.
Salming’s career highlights and achievements include:
- First European player to appear in 1,000+ NHL games
- 1982 recipient of the Charlie Conacher Memorial Trophy for humanitarian contributions and public service.
- First Team NHL All Star and five time Second Team NHL All Star
- Twice runner-up for the Norris Trophy
- Inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996 – the first Swede and only third European player to achieve this honour.
What’s Börje doing now?
After retiring from the NHL (playing his last season in Detroit), Salming returned home to play three more years of professional hockey in Sweden. Salming then turned his attention to succeeding in business and owns a brewery and a sports apparel company. He has recently spoken about his struggles recovering from a bout of COVID-19. He’s on the mend and hopefully he’ll continue to pay the odd visit to the city that still adores him … Toronto.
Headline Photo Credit: FaceOffNHL