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Salming Stands on Guard for D

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs


Wayne Karl is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. With a specialty in sports and sports business, particularly hockey. Karl publishes Hockey Business Report, a newsletter for the hockey industry. His freelance credits include The Hockey News, The Toronto Sun, The Globe and Mail and other publications.

September 25, 2006

(TORONTO) -- At this rate, the Toronto Maple Leafs may welcome back Borje Salming in more ways than one.

The Leafs will honour the Hall of Famer and former NHL All-Star defenceman, along with Leonard "Red' Kelly and the late Clarence "Hap' Day, on opening night against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4. Salming, who played for the Leafs from 1973-74 to 1988-89, will have a banner noting his jersey number 21 raised at Air Canada Centre to honour his contributions to the club. Kelly and Day will also have their jersey number 4 honoured, though 4 and 21 will both remain in circulation.

Brendan Bell was the latest Leafs defenceman to go down during the preseason.
(Graig Abel Photography)

After yet another Leaf defenceman suffered another injury, this time it was Brendan Bell limping out of the dressing room on crutches Sunday night after Toronto's 3-2 preseason loss to the Ottawa Senators in Halifax. The Leafs D-Corps might well ponder the thought of asking Salming to suit up.

Now 55, Salming turned businessman after retiring in 1989-90 after 17 seasons, his last as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. Besides other ventures, he started a hockey equipment company bearing his name, Salming Hockey. Though his playing days well behind him, the tall, lean Swede still looks like he could lace up the skates and teach the young Leafs rearguards a thing or two.

With Tomas Kaberle (pulled groin), Pavel Kubina (hip flexor strain), Carlo Colaiacovo (headaches) and Staffan Kronwall (sprained ankle) all already out of the lineup, the Leafs' defence could use the help.

In case those in Leafs Nation forget just how valuable Salming was to the Blue and White in his day, consider this: no other Leaf defenceman has been named to the NHL's First All-Star team since Salming in 1976-77. Bryan McCabe is the only Toronto d-man to make even the Second All-Star team, as he did in 2003-04, since Salming did it in 1979-80.

Now that the Leafs have a history of hiring former greats, as they did in appointing Doug Gilmour as player development advisor this month, they may want to ask Salming to hang around for a while.

Though the severity of Bell's injury is not yet clear, the Leafs' defence is clearly an area of concern as they continue to prepare for the regular season, next by hosting the Senators on Wednesday at the ACC. Toronto is 1-1 against Ottawa so far in the preseason, with a 3-1 win on Sept. 20 in addition to last night's 3-2 loss.

Regardless of which defencemen recover in time to play the Sens this week, the Leafs would do well to focus on playing hard against Ottawa - the two teams meet four times in Toronto's first 11 regular season games once the puck drops on Oct. 4.

And with Salming in attendance to watch number 21 ascend to the rafters that night, it will be an occasion to celebrate excellence on the Leaf blueline, no matter who wins.

Wayne Karl can be reached at wkarl@rogers.com

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