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Former Red Wings Salming and Kirton Raising Awareness of ALS



Borje Salming, former Detroit Red Wings

Swedish doctor Caroline Ingre has worked exclusively with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patients for the past 16 years. She told several of her patients cried about hockey great Borje Salming receiving that diagnosis.

“(They) felt great sadness that he too had been affected,” Ingre told writers Mattias Tengblad.

Ingre is Salming’s doctor. She is a senior physician at the neurology clinic at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm and also leads a research team ALS Treatment Center Karolinska.

The disease is thus far incurable, but Ingre says progress is being made. In the Expressen story, she is sounding a more hopeful tone than doctors have provided in the past.

Currently, life expectancy is only a few years for ALS sufferers. Ingre believes are going to start living much longer. Right now, about 10 percent of ALS patients are living significantly longer than a few years. 

The article stated in America, the FDA recently approved a new important ALS drug. ALS is frequently called Lou Gehrig’s Disease in the U.S. He was diagnosed with it while playing for the New York Yankees.

“Yes, as one or more of these many medications become approved, the disease will progress more slowly and how one lives with the disease will change,” Ingre said. “The hope is also that each individual can influence the disease more themselves, when the speed of the muscle weakness becomes somewhat slower. Perhaps lifestyle changes, exercise and sleep are more important if the activity of the disease has decreased.”

Two ex-Red Wings Fighting ALS

Salming has given Ingre his blessing to speak about his diagnosis with the hope of raising awareness for developing treatments and perhaps a cure.

“I think we are on the right track,” Ingre said. “Right now at Karolinska, we are testing ten different experimental medicines. Never before have so many different preparations been tested at the same time.”

Salming, 71 announced he had ALS last month and it shook up Sweden and the hockey world. He is a highly respected and extremely popular Hall of Fame player. He played almost all of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he ended his NHL career wearing a Detroit Red Wings uniform. Salming played his final NHL game for Detroit against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 1, 1990.

Salming was a gritty defenseman whose style went against the stereotype that Swedes weren’t tough enough to handle the NHL’s heavy checking.

The Red Wings have two former players living with an ALS diagnosis. Mark Kirton, 64, was diagnosed with ALS in 2018. He played for the Red Wings from 1980-83. Kirton has also been public about his fight.

Kirton was a spunky center for the Red Wings, scoring 18 goals in 1980-81,

On his Twitter feed, Kirton writes that he is “part of an ALS movement pushing for a cure.”

He told the Vancouver Province he “doesn’t want anyone’s pity.” What Kirton wants is a cure.

“Börje and I decided early on that if we can together raise awareness of ALS and it can help other people with the disease, then it is something that must be done,” Ingre said. “Börje is a very brave man. His illness must not have been in vain.”