Borje Salming was a hockey pioneer in the truest sense of the word. His ascension to prominence in 1973 paved the way for European players to play in North America in subsequent seasons and he proved to be a courageous, durable two-way defenceman in a physical era when he first joined the National Hockey League.
Salming was signed as a free agent by the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 3, 1973, and by the end of his first season in 1973-74, he was on his way to stardom in North America. The defenceman scored 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 76 games during his rookie year. Not only blessed with outstanding hockey talent, Salming forged an outstanding 16-year career in Toronto through determination and a strong will.
Salming remains as one of the franchise's all-time leaders in many statistical categories including: First in assists (620), fourth in points (768), third in games played (1,099), fifth in penalty minutes (1,292), and 12th in playoff points (49). Among all-time club defencemen, he is first in goals (148), assists and points. By reaching the 1,000 NHL game plateau, he became the first European-trained player in league history to reach the milestone.
The two-time runner-up for the James Norris Trophy was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team five times and the First-Team once. The six All-Star selections is a team-high mark shared by only Frank Mahovlich and Tim Horton. Salming achieved the feat in six consecutive seasons while sharing the limelight with accomplished NHL defencemen such as Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Larry Robinson and Denis Potvin.
Salming also enjoyed a decorated international hockey career outside of his long NHL service and, in 1996, he became the first Swedish-born player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In the storied history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Salming is among a select few gentlemen to be celebrated with an Honoured Number banner and also a statue along Legends Row outside of Air Canada Centre.