Toronto Maple Leafs great defenseman Borje Salming, who ended his career as a member of the Detroit Red Wings, announced Wednesday that he has ALS.
“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,” Salming said in a statement. “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, 71, added that he and his family have been shaken by the news, but he feels he is getting the best possible medical care.
Millions of fans wishing for the best for Salming…hugely popular player who changed the game https://t.co/fx2mAcMGoP
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) August 10, 2022
The Swedish standout was among the first European-trained players to make it as an NHL regular, although he’ll be the first to tell you that another former Red Wings defenseman and fellow Swede, Thommie Bergman, beat him to the NHL by a full season.
“He was one of those defensemen who could do everything, similar to Larry Robinson,” said former New York Rangers defenseman Tom Laidlaw who played against him. “He could hit, play on the power play, kill penalties and he wouldn’t back down from anyone.”
Salming came to the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973 when the perception was that Swedish players weren’t tough enough to play in the North America. Salming changed that thinking by taking everything opponents could do to him to become one of the NHL’s premium defensemen.
“I remember watching him play against Philadelphia and they tried to kill him but he would not back down,” Laidlaw said.
Salming Signed With Detroit
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare neurological disease that primarily affects nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement . Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, and talking. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms worsen over time. There is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to halt or reverse the progression of the disease.
ALS is often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The New York Yankees great died from the disease in 1941. According to the Center for Disease Control, doctors diagnose 5,000 new cases of ALS every year. It most often is diagnoses in people age 55 to 75.
On the National Institute of Health websites, it states: “Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from when the symptoms first appear. However, about 10 percent of people with ALS survive for 10 or more years.”
In May, Borje Salming revealed that he was experiencing shortness of breath, plus speech issues. Originally, doctors thought it might be related to a bout of COVID Salming experienced.
He played 16 seasons for the Maple Leafs (1973-89) before signing with the Red Wings in 1989. He played one season in Detroit, posting 19 points in 49 games. In his prime he was a dominant offensive performer. Salming netted 10 or more goals for seven seasons out of eight in the 1970s. He netted 19 goals in 1979-80. He registered 70 or more points for four consecutive seasons from 1976-77 to 1979-80.
Salming was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.