Maple Leafs react to Borje Salming’s passing: ‘An emotional day’

Jeff Marek pays tribute to Maple Leafs' great Borje Salming, after the Swedish defenceman lost his battle with ALS at the age of 71.

There was a sombre mood in the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room on Thursday as players shared their condolences following the news of Borje Salming’s passing.

The legendary Maple Leafs defenceman — who was a trailblazer for European players and became one of the greatest defencemen to ever lace up for the club — had been battling ALS for the past year.

“Obviously a sad day around the organization and in our locker room with the passing of Borje, so our thoughts are with him and his family,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. “To see the players talk about what he meant, how he played, how he paved the way in so many different areas was very inspiring. Definitely an emotional day.”

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Around the group, which includes several Swedish players, hearts were heavy, including for William Nylander. The Stockholm native previously shared that he had a strong relationship with the Maple Leafs great.

“It’s very sad, [we] just saw him a few weeks ago and it’s crazy how fast it went,” Nylander said. “It’s just been hard to process… it’s pretty upsetting.”

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Others, including Erik Kallgren, Timothy Liljegren, and Rasmus Sandin — each of whom were born in Sweden — shared that Salming’s passing was difficult not just for themselves, but for all of Sweden. 

For Kallgren in particular, the organization giving fans a final opportunity to show Salming how much he meant to them just a few short weeks ago was inspiring.

“I’m glad the organization [brought] him over and showed him how much the fans and the organization appreciate him, how much he’s meant to the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general.”

Salming was 71.

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