Börje Salming: The Legend Goes On

Börje Salming and statue

Exclusive interview by Sofie Kinnefors

Anders Börje Salming played at the highest possible level during the 70's, 80's and early 90's. 1148 regular NHL-games rendered 150 goals and 637 assists, giving a total of 787 points and six NHL All-Star Team appearances. In Canada Cup in 1976 he was elected an all-star. In Albertville Olympics in 1992, at the age of 41, he scored the most points in the Swedish national team and the most points of all defense players of all the countries playing. In 1996, Salming was the first Swedish player to be initiated in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Source: Salming.com 

 

When the audience of Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto stood up, cheered and excitedly clapped their hands as Tre Kronor’s Börje Salming was introduced during Canada Cup in 1976, the humbled Northern Swede modestly looked down at the ice. After 17 years in the NHL Salming is considered one of the most successful hockey players of all times. 

How old where you when you started playing hockey?

I inherited my first pair of skates at six years old. They had belonged to my older brother Stig Salming. I played in boys hockey teams in my home town of Salmi in Kiruna, then went on to play for Brynäs IF, where my brother also played. We became Swedish champions two years in a row.

What do you think has contributed to your great success in hockey?

I have always loved sports. Apart from hockey I also played handball growing up. I was, however, extremely dedicated to hockey and spent most of my time on the ice rink. I have a strong will and I practiced really hard. I have a lot of fun playing hockey, which also motivates me.

You played for Canadian hockey team Toronto Maple Leafs for a total of 16 years, how does Canadian players compare to Swedish?

When I played for Toronto Maple Leafs, Canadian hockey players where quite rough and aggressive. Back then, the conditions for hockey players were bad; there were few laws and a lot of players would get into fights. Conditions are better today; the laws are stricter and players are intimidated by penalties.

Why do you think Swedes are so good at hockey? (Why have so many Swedish hockey players made it to professional American and Canadian teams?)

We have great youth activities with educated trainers. We are also good at communicating and negotiating with our youths. When Swedish ice hockey players demonstrated an excellent job and proved that they belonged in the NHL, Americans and Canadians started taking an interest in Swedish players by sending scouts to Sweden in search of new talents.

During your career, you have had lots of injuries, some caused by fights on the ice rink. Were you a rowdy guy?

No I wouldn’t say so. Ice hockey is a physical, and quite brutal, sport and sometimes I would find myself in situations where I had to protect myself. The ice hockey culture back then was brutal, including hooligans and people in the audience, who would cheer on during fights.

You have been awarded many times during your career, is there an award that you are specifically proud of?

I’m proud of being the first Swedish hockey player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The banner, which features my name and picture, will always be there. They also raised a statue of me outside the center. I’m very proud of that.

When your tribute flag, hanging in the Air Canada Centre, was replaced, the old one was brought to Matojärvi ice rink in Kiruna. How did that feel?

It was an honor! A delegation from Toronto Maple Leafs personally delivered the banner. I was moved by the fact that Toronto chose to donate the banner to Kiruna. They consider where their players got their start, even if its small teams.  

Speaking about hometowns, what does Kiruna and Lappland mean to you?

My home town means a lot to me. Throughout my career I always maintained a close tie with Kiruna and Lappland. It felt like a calling; I would go home over the summer, fish and hunt. I longed for my family/relatives, especially my grandfather (my fathers-father). I currently live in Stockholm, but I visit my hometown as often as I can. I also speak to my 90-year-old mother Karin, who lives in Kiruna, at least three times a week.   

You have released three cookbooks; Vilt med Salming, Grilla med Salming and Skärgårdsmat med Salming, including food from the archipelago and the wild. Who taught you how to cook?

I taught myself how to cook. I had to learn once I left home. I’m not a gourmet cook, but I enjoy cooking basic foods. When I lived in Canada I did a lot of barbecuing and when I had a summer house in Vaxholm, outside of Stockholm, I learned to appreciate archipelagic food. I also enjoy hunting and fishing. My wife and I cook a lot together.  

You also run a business called Salming. Please tell us about it.

We are the athletes' brand, constantly looking for new ways to play, new demands, and new needs. Old truths often need to be reconsidered, and we are not afraid to break a rule or two if necessary. Good can always be a little bit better. You can always train a little bit harder. But sometimes it is up to the equipment, and that are the occasions we aim at when we develop our gear. We offer shoes, apparel, bags, packs and accessories for runners and squash and badminton players. Our products can be purchased online or in store.     

Please tell us about the Salming RunLAB.

At Salming RunLAB™ runners of any skill level can come and get their running style analyzed. Salming RunLAB™ is equipped with advanced motion capture technology from Qualisys that measures movements in 3D space. The technology is used by elite athletes, physiotherapists and researchers of biomechanics, and gives a scientific analysis of the whole body when you run – Full-body Running Analysis. The report you will get not only include the analysis, it also contains a full training program to strengthen certain muscles, increase your movability in certain areas or co-ordinations drills that will help you improve your running technique. The analysis takes place in the Salming RunLAB™ at Salming Running Store in Gothenburg, Stockholm, Raleigh and Zürich. The entire session takes just under 45 minutes. Our test requires that you are 15 years old or older.

Please mention a hockey player, who you admire and look up to.

I look up to my three and a half-year-old older brother. My father passed away from an accident when I was five years old, so my brother became my role model. Once I started playing for Brynäs and later the Swedish National Team I admired and looked up to my teammates.