March 23, 2023
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LEAFS NOTES: Borje Salming feels the love of the Maple Leafs and fans

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It’s been nearly 50 years since Borje Salming first captured the hearts of Leafs fans, enduring a tough NHL baptism to forge a two-decade career that’s still going strong.

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Now, as he battles his life with debilitating ALS, he needs to feel her love and support more than ever.

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Flanked by former Leafs captains Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin, Salming raised his arm to acknowledge a huge ovation from Scotiabank Arena fans ahead of Friday’s Hall of Famer game.

As the applause continued, Salming and his 1970s teammate Sittler were moved to tears. Sittler helped the ailing defender onto the carpet, with him and Sundin lending an arm when the 2022 initiates were brought out afterwards.

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Salming created his own special vibe around the rink, with a lengthy tribute planned for him ahead of Saturday’s game against Vancouver, and more recognition until Monday, when three fellow Swedes will be among the six newcomers joining him in the arena come.

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“[Salming]takes on a whole new meaning when you become a Leafs coach,” Sheldon Keefe said. “Like so many others, you think of the Leafs, you think of him.

“Especially when it comes to the European players who are so prominent in the league and (six Swedes) now play in our team.

“They bond with him and he made time to spend it with them. He was here last season and had a quick chat with them. I realize he’s a proud Maple Leaf, and with all of our alumni, having that connection helps your career when you see the impact the team and city have had on players who came before them.


Defenseman Rasmus Sandin recalls a lunch Salming arranged for him and his father at a Stockholm restaurant in 2018, the year the Leafs made him their first-round draft pick.
Salming introduced the teenager to the city, team and media, and how he grew into an NHL all-star and set many franchise brands.

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“I was nervous with his (raspy) voice,” Sandin recalled. “But he was my father’s idol growing up and he was more nervous than me.

“I think the food was on the house because Borje was with us. It was a great memory.”
Mark Giordano was too young to see Salming play, but supplanted his father Paul as the family’s Salming historian.

“My father’s generation said he was underrated, one of the best players in his position,” said Giordano. “And you hear from the ice that he was a great guy too. So it’s great to recognize such players.


Salming’s visit to Toronto with his family has a dual purpose: to be admitted to Hall and to further investigate treatment and secure medication to alleviate his condition, which is difficult to import into Sweden.

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ALS has already robbed the 71-year-old of his ability to speak and he is restricted to the use of a feeding tube, a shock to those used to Salming setting the bar for fitness in his playing days and as a senior.

“He’s going through a really big fight right now and we’re all behind him,” said Sandin. “It’s tough for him, but it’s great to have him in Toronto now. We wish him the best.”


With all the stress Keefe has behind the bench some nights at the SBA, events like the Hall of Fame Game are a perq of the job.

“For as long as I can remember this has always been a game I would look forward to on TV,” he said on Friday morning. “All weekend to honor players you idolized. It’s a great night and we are fortunate to be able to host it here in Toronto and give our fans a chance to recognize it.

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“As I’ve gotten older, of course, I remember players like the Sedins getting drafted (with him in 1999).”

Keefe went to Tampa Bay that year for 47th overall after the 2nd-ranked and 3rd-ranked Twins went to the Canucks.


Friday was Keefe’s 200th NHL game. He already has the most wins by a Leafs coach in his first 200, with 123, ahead of Hap Day’s 104 according to NHL stats…Captain John Tavares played against recruits Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Roberto Luongo and Daniel Alfredsson and was on the team Canada with Luongo. “He was a great time to be with, he kept things light, he brought great energy but also a great work ethic,” Tavares said. “I’ve had some good fights with him.” While they have a shared history as the Islanders’ top 5 picks, Tavares also recalled Luongo in double overtime when New York eliminated the Panthers in the first round of the 2016 playoffs… The AHL Marlies gambled away a 3-0 lead after losing a third in overtime en route to the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-5. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev scored twice and set up Pontus Holmberg, all in the first half, while William Villeneuve scored the other goal for the Marlies, now 8-2-1. Dryden McKay stopped 28 of 33 shots in his first AHL game.

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