“I have received news that has shaken my family and me. The signs that indicated that something was wrong in my body turned out to be the disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig´s disease,” Salming stated through the Leafs on Wednesday. “In an instant, everything changed. I do not know how the days ahead will be, but I understand that there will be challenges greater than anything I have ever faced. I also recognize that there is no cure, but there are numerous worldwide trials going on and there will be a cure one day. In the meantime, there are treatments available to slow the progression, and my family and I will remain positive.”
Salming was named to the IIHF’s Centennial all-time all-star team in 2008. He is a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and he is credited with almost single-handedly convincing NHL teams that Europeans could play in the NHL. That was 50 years ago, but his impact resonates to this day.
After Wednesday’s Sweden-Switzerland World Junior game players who had never seen Salming play in person reflected on his impact on the game, both at home and abroad. The name is simply part of the hockey canon, like Howe and Gretzky and Crosby and Sundin.
“He’s a legend,” said defender Simon Edvinsson. “A legend everywhere. He’s The King. I just heard about the news this morning. He’s a fighter. He’s going through a tough time now, but he has all of Sweden behind him. We haven’t talked about it that much yet, but we are respectful for his situation and hope for the best.”
“He’s a legend in Sweden,” agreed captain Emil Andrae. “I don’t remember that much of him as a player, but I’ve seen videos on YouTube. The whole crowd is standing up for him in Toronto at the Canada Cup in 1976. That’s unbelievable. Today we tried to support him a little bit. We’re very sorry for him.”
“He’s an amazing player, one of the best Sweden has ever had,” offered Daniel Torgersson. “He had a great career and everyone admires him.”
The entire coaching staff wore “21” stickers on their lapels behind the bench to honour “B.J.” Head coach Tomas Monten also offered his thoughts on Salming. “These players are pretty young, but for us coaches and staff he’s special. We just heard this morning. We talked about it. It’s just sad news, and we just hope that everything goes well. He’s one of the greatest players we’ve ever had. If you’ve ever been to Toronto and get into a taxi cab and say you’re Swedish, you get all the stories. We just hope it goes well. It seemed like a good thing to do.”