It was an emotional weekend for all Leafs fans, and especially for Toronto legend Börje Salming. The Swede played 16 seasons for the Leafs, and is still Toronto’s all-time leader in assists, points by a defenseman, goals by a defenseman, assists by a defenseman, and points in one season by a defenseman.
Salming is now in the battle of his life with ALS and was in Toronto this weekend for the Hall of Fame festivities held in Toronto.
ALS has robbed the 71-year-old of his ability to speak, and he’s restricted to using a feeding tube. But he still managed to fly to Canada to receive the support and love from the Toronto fans. And it sure was a weekend that fans will remember forever, and for Börje as well.
Salming was flanked by former Leafs captains Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin, and during the huge ovation from Scotiabank Arena fans before Friday’s Hall of Fame game, the two legends helped Salming raise his arm to acknowledge the support and cheers.
Sittler and Salming were both moved to tears, and they weren’t alone. Emotions ran high in the arena, and even the players were deeply touched. All players tapped their sticks to the ice except for one.
If you watched the ceremony closely, you could see Nylander had actually taken off his helmet and gloves to clap his hands instead, and fans absolutely loved the gesture.
”Props to William Nylander. Taking his helmet and gloves off and clapping. There may have been more, but I saw him. Well done,” one fan said.
”Classy, awesome and sad at the same time. Mad respect to Nylander for removing his helmet and gloves to actually clap instead of the half hearted stick taps of others. He was raised properly obviously,” said another.
”One hope for me personally is the love he has for Salming, Sundin previous swedes. Tonight if you check the clip Nylander was the only Leaf with his helmet off and gloves clapping his hands for them,” a third added.
”Going to say only one thing about last night’s game. My respect for William Nylander is growing so much. Pre-game ceremony he had no bucket or gloves and was clapping his hands. Only player to do that. He then followed it up and was probably the best leaf of the game,” a fourth said.
On Saturday, Toronto Maple Leafs held a tribute to Börje on his own, and it was even more tearful. Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe named William Nylander, Pierre Engvall, Calle Jarnkrok, Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Sandon, and goaltender Erik Kallgren his starters for the game.
All of them are Swedes, and they were on the ice as Börje Salming made his way to the center ice with all of his closest family with him. Salming also did the ceremonial puck drop with William Nylander and Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.