TORONTO -- In the past 13 months the NHL fraternity lost two beloved members in Hall of Fame defenseman Borje Salming and Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow to the heinous disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS.

Now the hockey world is uniting to fight back and help find a cure, thanks in large part to the efforts of former NHL forward Mark Kirton.

After a relentless seven-month process by the 65-year-old that included numerous phone calls and Zoom meetings, the seven Canadian NHL franchises -- the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks -- have united in their support to raise funds and awareness for research to solve ALS, a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control and eventually leading to loss of mobility, the ability to eat and speak, paralysis and respiratory failure. 

"It's incredible," Kirton told "The way these NHL organizations were receptive and proactive to help in this fight, it shows how much they care.

"The loss of both Borje and Chris were high profile, and brought awareness about this terrible disease because it made it closer to home for a lot of people. The fact that these teams have come together to help is a big story."

The seven teams each will hold individual events and fundraisers in support of the ALS Super Fund and the #EndALS movement, a broad-based campaign to find better treatment and support for Canadians living with ALS.

People diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, have an average life expectancy of 3-5 years.

Kirton, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2018 and requires a wheelchair, played eight NHL seasons. He began his career playing 13 games during two seasons with the Maple Leafs from 1979-81 and was mentored by Salming.

It was Kirton who helped provide guidance for Salming and his family last year when the former defenseman was diagnosed with the disease. He died Nov. 24, 2022.

The stories of the valiant battles waged by Salming and Snow, who died Sept. 30, drove Kirton to push even harder to drum up support for the cause. With the help of Edmonton Oilers CEO Jeff Jackson, a long-time acquaintance, Kirton began reaching out to the Canadian teams in the spring.

According to Kirton, the final result almost didn't come to fruition because of a bout with COVID-19 last month that he said could have killed him.

"I was in hospital and somehow got out of there after eight days," he said. "I'm almost back to normal."

Not everyone has been as fortunate.

"We've lost about 12 of our ALS Action Canada members in the past year and a half because they got COVID, then pneumonia, then they were done," Kirton said. "So when I got diagnosed and tested positive and had a lot of congestion in my chest, I thought, 'Here I go too.'

"For some reason I didn't. For some reason I bounced back. And now I've got work to do creating more awareness."

Kirton didn't need to say a lot to convince Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving how important the cause is.

Treliving held the same role with the Flames for nine years until the two sides parted ways April 17. Snow was a key part of Treliving's management team in Calgary, before and after Snow was diagnosed with ALS in 2019 and given 6-12 months to live.

On Sept. 27, the day the Maple Leafs were playing the Ottawa Senators in the Kraft Hockeyville game in St. Thomas, Ontario, Treliving flew to Calgary to be at his ailing friend’s bedside, saying, "I wanted to be there to say goodbye." Snow died three days later.

Last month Treliving experienced how much love there remains for Salming in his native Sweden, 12 months after his passing, when the Maple Leafs were in Stockholm for the 2023 NHL Global Series Sweden presented by Fastenal.

"This disease is something that has affected hundreds of thousands of families world-wide, including the hockey community," he said. "Both Borje and Chris have touched the hockey community in unmeasurable ways, and we with the  Maple Leafs are proud to help in any way to find a cure.

"I've seen firsthand what it can do. In the quiet moments I still think about Chris all the time. I saw what it did to him, to his family. It's not something you forget easily."

Nor do those in the Flames organization.

"ALS has impacted our Flames family directly. We are encouraged to join our Canadian NHL community by supporting research together and continuing the battle to find a cure," Flames president of hockey operations Don Maloney said. "Nobody fights this terrible disease alone. For those suffering from ALS and their loved ones, we hope our combined strength will make a bigger difference in the pursuit of a cure in the face of this underfunded illness."

The same holds true for the Ottawa Senators, especially after assistant coach Bob Jones announced Jan. 25 that he'd been diagnosed with ALS.

"In Ottawa, we continue to support assistant coach Bob Jones' battle with ALS," Senators president Cyril Leeder said. "It is meaningful that all seven Canadian NHL teams are unified in support of the ALS Super Fund. We hope this initiative will provide a much-needed profile and financial support that can aid in the research to help end ALS one day."

Information about the ALS Super Fund can be found at