Toronto’s great puck hero Börje Salming died at the age of 71 from ALS.
Jari Kurri was watching his daughter’s soccer practice when the hockey legend heard the sad news Börje from Salming with a little delay.
The famous Swedish ice hockey defenseman Börje Salming died at the age of 71 from ALS.
Salming’s death is touching. Kurri faced Salming for the longest time in the NHL among Finnish players. Salming and Kurri played ten seasons at the same time, when Kurri went to Edmonton in 1980 and Salming ended his game in Detroit in 1990.
Toronto was Salming’s own town. The defender from Kiruna played a total of 16 seasons in one of Canada’s hockey capitals.
“He has contributed a lot to getting to the NHL. Not only for Swedish players, but for all European players. He was a true pioneer,” Kurri, 62, told HS on Thursday evening.
“He paved the way for knowing what it was like to be European at that time.”
Salming appeared to the Toronto puck audience very frail and broken by illness during the Hall of Fame weekend just before mid-November.
Kurri also participated in the big Toronto event. He regretted not being able to meet Salming then.
Kurri was illiterate when he went to Edmonton, and he didn’t feel at home anyway. Many clubs didn’t even hire Europeans, and Salming’s Toronto was by no means the easiest place to start plowing the road.
“Yes, he was a warrior. He was skilled and threw himself in front of the pucks. It felt like he was on the ice the whole time we played against them.”
During ten seasons, Kurri and Salming met twenty times in the NHL, when Kurri belonged to the Western Conference and Salming’s Maple Leafs to the East.
Kurri says that something tells about Salming’s appreciation when Sweden played in the Canada Cup against Canada in 1976. The match was played on September 7 in Toronto.
“Salming got a bigger round of applause than any Canadian. That says something,” says Kurri. He himself wasn’t in the national team at the time, but he faced Salming in the Canada Cup in 1981. Sweden won 5–0 then.
Kurri remembers that Salming was an excellent all-round defender, i.e. he controlled all aspects of the game.
“Börje Salming was always on the ice when we needed an equalizer at the end or to protect the lead. A true legend.”
It was a great achievement to win the hearts of Canadians, especially in Toronto, where attitudes were still ossified in the early 1970s. Salming managed to build an eternal love story.
“Yes, he has been through a hard school.”
Kurria was shocked by the rapid progress of Salming’s ALS disease, when he said that he was terminally ill only in the summer.
“Everything went quickly.”
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