Borje Salming, a legendary NHL star who spent the majority of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, died on Thursday, the league announced. He was 71 years old. Salming was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in April but didn't announce the news until August.
"The Toronto Maple Leafs mourn the loss of Börje Salming," Brendan Shanahan, Leafs president and alternate governor, said in a statement, per ESPN. "Börje was a pioneer of the game and an icon with an unbreakable spirit and unquestioned toughness. 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 joined the Maple Leafs during the 1973-74 season and scored five goals with 34 assists in 76 games. The defenseman went on to be one of the best during his era, being named an NHL First Team All-Star in 1977 and NHL Second Team All-Star five times. Salming was also part of the Sweden national team winning a bronze medal in the 1972 World Championships and a silver medal in the 1973 World Championships. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.
"A superior all-around defenseman and the first Swedish star ever to play in the League, Borje Salming was as physically and mentally tough as he was skillfully gifted," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "He blazed the trail that many of the greatest players in NHL history followed while shattering all of the stereotypes about European players that had been prevalent in a League populated almost entirely by North Americans before his arrival in 1973.
"Salming owns nearly every franchise record for Maple Leafs defensemen, including, goals (148), assists (620) and points (768), and was voted to the NHL's First or Second postseason All-Star Teams six consecutive seasons. He was named one of the top 10 players in Leafs history in 2016. Soon after, he was selected one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players during the League's Centennial celebration."