Leafs legend Börje Salming passes away after battle with ALS

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced that legendary defender Börje Salming has passed away following a battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Salming ranks third all-time in games played for the Leafs with 1,099, also appearing for the Detroit Red Wings in his 1,148 game career. He still leads the Leafs all-time in assists with 620, and sits 4th all-time in franchise points behind only Mats Sundin, his longtime friend Daryl Sittler, and Dave Keon.

In 1996, Salming became the first Swedish player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, after blazing a path to the NHL for European players in the 70s. He endured many tough battles on the ice and took more abuse than most players, and fought back just as hard.

He was recently honoured in Toronto following the annual Hall of Fame game, and got a rousing welcome home from Leafs Nation.

“The Toronto Maple Leafs mourn the loss of Börje Salming. Börje was a pioneer of the game and an icon with an unbreakable spirit and unquestioned toughness,” Leafs President Brendan Shanahan said in a statement released Thursday. “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. Börje joined the Maple Leafs 50 years ago and will forever be a part of our hockey family. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Pia, his children Theresa, Anders, Rasmus, Bianca, Lisa and Sara, and brother Stieg.”

Salming announced back in August of this year he was battling ALS. His number 21 was raised to the rafters by the Leafs in 2006 and officially retired by the team in 2016. He was also named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players ever for the league’s centennial season in 2017.