Lanny McDonald remembers former teammate Borje Salming: ‘He was a warrior’

Borje Salming was one of the great players in Toronto Maple Leafs history, but his impact on hockey extends far beyond that.

Salming was a trailblazer who came overseas from Sweden to start a new era of NHL hockey, where Europeans became game-changers and elite players in North America. Although he never won a Stanley Cup, he won over players and fans from around the world with his breathtaking speed, unmatched skill and relentless determination to keep going despite adversity.

Now fans, friends and teammates are reflecting on Salming’s legacy after the 71-year-old passed on Thursday following a battle with ALS.

“Every player from Europe or outside of North America should thank Borje for paving the way for all of them to have the great chance to play this unbelievable game,” Lanny McDonald, a former teammate of Salming’s, said on Hockey Central.

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Salming is the Maple Leafs’ all-time leader in games played (1,099) and points (768) by a defenseman, and helped Toronto make the playoffs in 12 of his 16 seasons. McDonald and Salming joined the Leafs together ahead of the 1973-1974 season and were teammates for seven years, never failing to make the post-season.

In 1996, Salming was the first Swedish-born player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and in 2017 he was named to the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players list.

Earlier this month Salming was honored on back-to-back nights in Toronto during Hall of Fame weekend. While ALS had visibly taken a toll on him, the ceremony and his mere presence moved everyone in attendance and watching on TV.

With his passing, the NHL community lost not only one of the greatest to ever play but someone who truly revolutionized the game and was an exceptional global ambassador.

“Borje, in my opinion, was one of the top five or six defensemen of all time, he was a fearless competitor… he could do it all, but more than anything, he was a warrior,” McDonald said.

“(But) he was even a better teammate off the ice. We loved just hanging out with him, seeing his big smile all the time every time he greeted you after maybe you’d only been gone for a day or even a week or a couple of years.”

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