HomeSportsDarryl Sittler grateful Borje Salming got final moment in Toronto with Maple...

Darryl Sittler grateful Borje Salming got final moment in Toronto with Maple Leafs fans

When Darryl Sittler heard that Börje Salming was planning to be in Toronto for the Hockey Hall of Fame weekend, he thought it was going to be a long shot to pull off.

It was a month earlier when Salming announced he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was already dealing with the effects as his mobility was limited and he couldn’t speak.

Sittler was in constant communication with Salming’s family about his battle with ALS and when the former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman made it out for the pre-game ceremony, Sittler couldn’t contain his emotions as he helped his teammate raise his arm.

“One of things that was the most touching for me was that his family said that they hadn’t seen him so happy since he was diagnosed with ALS,” Sittler explained on Tim and Friends. “Börje’s heart is in Toronto, it was meant to be there and we certainly all will remember that. Those moments don’t come along very often in anybody’s life that are as precious as that and it was great that it had happened.”

The 71-year-old was determined to make the trip as a show of respect for the Hall of Fame inductees — which included Swedes Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Daniel Alfredsson. Salming would get his own moment the following night at the Leafs game against the Vancouver Canucks, where he received a standing ovation after a video tribute was played.

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Sittler was glad that his former teammate was able to experience that moment one last time with the Swedish players in attendance.

He is also grateful that everyone involved can be at peace after Salming passed away on Thursday.

“It’s probably a blessing in disguise for Börje and his family, that disease is a nasty one and it’s not easy for anybody through the final stages of it,” Sittler said. “For Börje to be at peace and not suffering anymore, I’m happy for them.”

Much has been discussed about Salming’s tough journey in the NHL where he earned a reputation as a player with “an unbreakable spirit and unquestioned toughness,” as Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement.

Those attributes were on full display in Sittler’s eyes when he saw Salming make the long trip from Sweden to Toronto.

“Börje obviously had the character and the fortitude to play through (that tough period),” Sittler said. “That’s why he got to be there for that weekend. None of us probably would have done that, we would have been too sick or we wouldn’t have put the effort in. But Börje knew it was important for him. He wanted his family to be there, and he wanted to show his appreciation to Leafs fans and to Canada who gave him the life that he had.

“We wanted to do that for him. The Leafs organization right from the get-go, Brendan Shanahan and Larry Tannenbaum said ‘Darryl, whatever it takes we’ll do to make Börje and his family accommodating and happy. We’re going to do that.’ So we’re all very proud of the moment for sure.”

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When it comes to the legacy Salming leaves behind, Sittler points to him being a trailblazer as the first European to make the move to the NHL and how it set the stage for many others to follow his steps.

He said there was a lot of emotion from Salming when they were watching the Hall of Fame ceremony and the inductees mentioned his name in their speeches.

“There was so much pride. He was there with his Hall of Fame jacket on which was really cool,” Sittler said. “It’s a weekend I will always remember. And I’m so happy for Börje and for his family that it ended that way that they could experience all that.”

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