Borje Salming’s cult status within the Toronto Maple Leafs as well in the entire world of hockey is unthreatened: Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and IIHF Team of the Century.
As a European in the NHL back in the 1970s and 1980s, Salming was a target for the opponents. But the nickname “Chicken Swede” didn’t stay on for long and was quickly changed as Salming immediately showed that he didn’t back down from anyone.
It is hardly possible to compare the game in the NHL in the 70s and 80s to today. During Salming’s era, players could do almost anything without consequences. As a defender, Borje Salming often ended up in all kinds of trouble and fights.
Six hundred scars. That’s the result of Borje Salming’s time as a player in the world’s toughest league. It says something about the sacrificial style of play that made the Swede so appreciated by Toronto fans.
When Salming’s Toronto faced the Detroit Red Wings in November of 1986, Borje Salming suffered his third severe facial injury. But this time, the audience was in shock.
Salming ended up lying in front of the goalkeeper after Detroit forward Gerard Gallant lost his balance and stepped on Salming’s face with his skate.
“An inch in another direction, and I would have been without my right eye. Or four inches further down and Gallant’s skate had hit my neck,” Borje Salming said.
It ended with “only” 300 stitches. Afterward, Salming did an epic interview where he didn’t seem to care much about the injury, laughing at it instead.
“After the second facial injury, I always said that there would be a third,” he said.
He then continued, laughing: “I guess I was lucky. My eye is okay. But it doesn’t look good.”