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Tributes pour in for Leafs’ legend Salming: ‘He forever changed the game of hockey’

Many tributes are being made in honour of the life and legacy of Toronto Maple Leafs’ legend Börje Salming, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 71.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued a lengthy statement after news of Salming’s death became public, saying the long-time defenceman “blazed the trail that many of the greatest players in NHL history followed while shattering all of the stereotypes about European players.”

“A superior all-around defenseman and the first Swedish star ever to play in the League, Börje Salming was as physically and mentally tough as he was skillfully gifted,” Bettman’s statement read in part.

A bouquet of flowers was placed under a statue of Salming outside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, with the Maple Leafs sharing a tribute on a big screen at Maple Leafs Square.

Borje Salming
Flowers lay beneath a statue of Borje Salming in Toronto. Photo: Daniel Berry/CityNews.

The Maple Leafs shared different posts on social media, including a tribute on Instagram, leading other organizations — including the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets — to offer their thoughts on Salming’s passing.

The Ottawa Senators replied to the Leafs’ original tweet, calling the 71-year-old “a true trailblazer.” The Los Angeles Kings tweeted that the organization’s hearts were with the Salming family and members of the Maple Leafs.

“His legacy of strength and determination remains with us all forever,” the Kings wrote.

Maple Leafs’ alumni also shared a tweet, saying Salming “will forever be a part of our Maple Leafs’ family.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted that his thoughts were with the Salming family and all of the city’s hockey fans.

“From Sweden to Toronto, ‘The King’ will be remembered for the incredible impact he had on our city,” Tory’s tweet read.

Former NHL goalie and fellow Sweden native Eddie Lack said Salming was “one of the toughest to ever play the game.”

“Such a sad day, but happy you got to experience all the love you deserve from the fans last few weeks,” Lack tweeted.

“Gone but never forgotten.”

Sportsnet’s Michael Grange shared a touching anecdote, noting how Salming was “the coolest, fittest, most invincible-seeming human I’d ever encountered.”

Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan issued a statement on behalf of the organization, calling Salming a pioneer of the game and an icon with an unbreakable spirit and unquestioned toughness.

In July, Salming was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The long-time NHL defenceman publicly announced his diagnosis in August.

This month, Salming made the trip to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto for the Maple Leafs Hall of Fame induction weekend game, where he was part of an emotional tribute alongside Darryl Sittler, a lifelong friend and former teammate.

Tributes pour in for Leafs’ legend Salming: ‘He forever changed the game of hockey’

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