Borje Salming was a great hockey player. He was a trail blazer, one of the first Swedish players to make an impact in the NHL. But, I’ll tell you, that sat very poorly with seven-year-old me. Very poorly indeed.
Let me explain. The card you see above was issued by Esso during the 1988-89 season and went into an album called the “Esso NHL All-Star Collection.” All of this was pretty much the coolest thing ever. I took the cards and the album everywhere and read the articles hundreds of times. As an aside, to this day I’m convinced that “the computer at NHL headquarters was in danger of overheating because of the extra demands Gretzky’s statistics placed upon its circuits,” because an article called “The Gretzky Era” inside told me that was the case.
Anyway, I was not thrilled with the fact that Borje Salming was Swedish. I wanted him to be Canadian. So, I scratched out “Kiruna, Sweden” in the album and wrote in “Canada.” That seemed to make it better. Imagine if that logic worked – our Canadian national teams would never lose another game. I was clearly a genius, even at an early age.
Now, with the perspective of a (fairly immature) adult, I am proud of the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs were once forward-thinking enough to give a Hall of Famer like Borje Salming a chance to come to North America.
Three quick things about Borje, while we’re on the subject:
1. During the 1986-87 season, he took a 200-plus-stitch cut to the face from a skate cut in a scramble in the crease and now, years later, looks exactly like a former hockey player who once took a 200-plus-stitch cut to the face from a skate.
2. He had originally been suspended for the entire 1986-87 season for admitting he had tried cocaine. The NHL later realized that it was the 1980’s, and they did not want to have to suspend everyone, so they shortened his suspension to just eight games.
3. He now runs an underwear company called Salming Underwear. True story.
Can we also talk about the A on those 1980’s Leafs jerseys? What was that all about? Has anyone ever seen a letter A that looks like that anywhere else, ever? Didn’t think so.
At least the Leafs look good losing now.