Börje Salming fans showed their admiration and respect for the “pioneer” Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman who “blazed the trail” for generations of hockey players.
CP24 spoke to fans who visited his statue in Toronto on Friday morning to pay their respects to the Leafs legend. A monument of Salming was added to Legends Row in 2015 in memory of his role as one of the best defencemen in the team’s history.
Kimeija, a woman from Finland who took a photo with the statue on Friday morning, said she deeply respected Salming, even though he was from Sweden, Finland’s “arch enemy” in hockey.
“I still have high respect for his skills. He opened the door for Europeans. He’s gone too soon. It’s really sad,” she said.
As a Swedish native, he was the first European-trained player to make a mark on the league, according to his Hockey Hall of Fame induction, which took place in 1996.
“Salming's accomplishments and longevity in the NHL helped pave the way for many subsequent European stars,” the statement goes on to say.
Ammika, a Swedish native honouring Salming on Friday, also noted his role as a “legend” back home.
“When he went in ‘73 to play for Toronto was very important for Swedish hockey players, European hockey players,” she said.
For Canadians, Salming was also a “big deal,” Chris, a Torontian visiting the monument, said while recalling the defenceman’s distinct “smooth skating.”
“When I was a kid, every Saturday night, and whenever he was on TV, I would see where he was on the ice and what he was going to do. He was just such an inspiration, such a smooth skater and such a treat to watch,” he said.
He noted that it was fitting that the former Leafs defenceman was honoured by the franchise in an emotional moment earlier this month.
“He was a true pioneer, an absolute pioneer, he blazed the trail for everyone.”
Mayor John Tory also paid tribute to the iconic player on Thursday, calling him “The King,” as he was widely known.
"From Sweden to Toronto, 'The King' will be remembered for the incredible impact he had on our city," Tory said in a statement Thursday. "I'm thankful he was able to be here earlier this month for such a courageous and loving moment on the ice."