The Toronto Maple Leafs are mourning the passing of their former player Borje Salming so Omar looks back on the Swedish star's career and what made him so special.
- We unfortunately lost a legend and amazing person-- Borje Salming. But this also kind of gives us an opportunity to remember and celebrate an amazing life, especially as part of the Leafs organization.
So I wanted to talk about three things that if you're a Leafs fan or if you're not a Leafs fan and, you know, why is Borje Salming such an important person. Here you go.
First off, Borje Salming was actually the first European-born player to play 1,000 games in the NHL, which was a significant deal. This happened on January 4, 1988. And, you know, the way that we talk about European players now versus in the past was a lot different. Unfortunately, there's a lot of stigma and stereotyping around European-based players. So seeing Borje Salming come to the NHL, play over-- play 1,000 games and be recognized for that really speaks to how he was able to pave the way for European players moving forward. That-- he was also the first European player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. This happened in 1996. That was a pretty significant moment for players of European descent at that time.
Cycling back on the idea or the perception of European players, again, at the time, the whole idea was that European players are soft and, you know, they can't deal with the hits because, you know, in Europe, the ice is bigger, it's more focus on speed and skill. But in North America, we focus on fighting and toughness. So then along comes Borje Salming, who, in a game against the Detroit Red Wings, takes a Gerard Gallant skate to the face, ends up needing surgery and over 200 stitches, something that is looks awfully painful but, again, speaks to how this whole idea and perception about how European players are was completely dismantled after that.
And another reason why Borje Salming was a great influence, was a great, you know, leader when it came to European players in the NHL-- and we can talk about his-- you know, his staple as part of the Leafs organization. He has the most career goals as a defenseman. He has the most career points as a defenseman. He has the most assists, both as a defenseman and just as an overall player, is on Legends Row-- has a statue in Legends Row, had his number 21 retired.
And, I guess, as an honorable mention, Borje Salming was loved in this city. He loves this city and we all loved him. I mean, one of those last moments-- it's unfortunate but beautiful at the same time, where he was on the ice with Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin and just hearing the applause, and the warmth, and seeing his reaction to it. It just speaks to how important Salming wa-- is-- not was-- is to this organization.
And, again, when you just see players like William Nylander, and Calle Jarnkrok, and Eric [INAUDIBLE], and [INAUDIBLE], and Sandin, and then Pontus Holmberg, like, all of these European players, not even just on the Leafs, but around the league that, you know, look at Salming and look to Salming as a hero and, again, as a leading force for Europeans in the NHL. It just speaks to, again, how important he was. And I'm really glad the Leafs are taking this-- are taking, hopefully, the rest of the season to wear this great patch, remember him. And I really like to think that, you know, when it comes to the rest of the season and even seasons beyond that Salming will never be a person that we ever forget.