Connect with us

Hockey History

Borje Salming in Erik Karlsson’s Thoughts



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Maybe there’s no Erik Karlsson without Borje Salming?

These days, nobody bats an eye when a great defenseman emerges from Europe.

The San Jose Sharks star, the most recent multi-winner of the Norris Trophy, is one of many Hall of Fame-worthy blueliners to come from Europe over the last three decades, along with Victor Hedman, Zdeno Chara, and Nicklas Lidstrom, to name a few.

Swede Salming, however, was the first European-trained Hall of Fame NHL’er. The Jukkasjärvi native, in the early 1970s, paved the way for Karlsson and company.

In 1970 — three years before Borje Salming’s NHL debut — NHL’ers rarely grew up and trained in Europe before crossing over to North America. At the start of that decade, Ulf Sterner and Jaroslav Jiřík were the only two to have done it.

Salming was an instant sensation, and by his second season, the Toronto Maple Leafs star was already a second-team NHL All-Star. But that didn’t stop taunts from xenophobic players and fans of “Chicken Swede.”

Even though Karlsson never saw Salming play live, he appreciates everything Salming went through: “We still knew what he did, what he contributed to the rest of us to be able to go and play overseas.”

From 1975 to 1981, Salming accumulated 421 points, second only to Denis Potvin’s 490 points among all NHL defensemen. He was also the first European-trained NHL’er to log 1,000 regular season games. In the process, “King” changed perceptions that Swedes weren’t tough enough for the NHL.

Karlsson paid tribute: “He’s someone that I think impacted a lot of, especially Swedish players, over the years.”

In addition to his 1996 Hall of Fame induction, Salming’s No. 21 has been retired by the Maple Leafs.

“I’ve been very fortunate, to have met him many times, to have had many discussions with him,” Karlsson said. “He’s a great man.”

Unfortunately, Borje Salming’s health has been declining.

Salming was diagnosed in July with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a neurological disorder that slowly weakens one’s muscles and can lead to deformity. This past week, Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that the 71-year-old is no longer able to speak.

From one special Swedish defenseman to another, Karlsson offered, “It’s sad to see what he’s going through right now. You just hope that him and his family are doing as best as they possibly can.”

Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network plus an ad-free browsing experience.

Sheng’s Travel Fund

Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.

Click here to contribute to Sheng's travel pool!

Get SJHN in your inbox!

Enter your email address to get all of our articles delivered directly to your inbox.

Hockey Shots

Extra Hour Hockey Training

Cathy’s Power Skating

Sharks Team & Cap Info

SJHN on Facebook

All the San Jose Sharks news that's fit to print

Enter your email to get the best Sharks coverage delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.