As part of the NHL Centennial Celebration, renowned Canadian artist Tony Harris will paint original portraits of each of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian as chosen by a Blue Ribbon panel. NHL.com will reveal two portraits each Monday in 2017.
This week, the portraits of Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Borje Salming, the first European star in the League, and Peter Forsberg, who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Colorado Avalanche, are unveiled in the 13th installment.
Salming, who came to the Maple Leafs from Sweden in 1973, played 17 seasons in the NHL and was the first European player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In his NHL100 profile of Salming, author Bob Duff wrote about Salming's tough introduction into the NHL.
"He was selected to the Second All-Star Team in 1974-75, his second NHL season, the first of six consecutive seasons when he was either a First or Second Team choice. His lone First All-Star Team selection came in 1976-77 when he finished second in the Norris Trophy voting. Salming also was second in Norris voting in 1979-80 and finished in the top five four other times, finishing fifth as a rookie in 1973-74.
"Before any of that, Salming would first be required to defend his honor. Every tough guy on every team was determined to find out just how much punishment the NHL's first European star could take without cracking.
"'We knew when we came over here there was going to be fights and all that stuff,' said Salming, who was joined on the Maple Leafs in 1973 by Swedish forward Inge Hammarstrom. 'But it's part of it. It was something that I had no problems with. You wanted to play hockey but that was something that was part of the game. All you did was you'd keep on playing. That's all.'"
Harris said Salming was one of the players he admired when he was younger.
"As kids, my friends and I thought that Borje Salming was the coolest player in the NHL," Harris said. "He was different -- tall, lean, fast, and he wore a Jofa helmet that we had never seen before. For the past 10 years my job has been to paint current players in the League. The best part of this commission is the opportunity to paint players that I admired in my youth."
Forsberg, also from Sweden, was a skilled, physical center who won the Calder Trophy, the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy in addition to the two Stanley Cup championships.
Author John MacKinnon, in his NHL100 profile on Forsberg, said the young Swede made an impact on the ice before he even came to the NHL.
"Forsberg played his first NHL game on Jan. 21, 1995. But his grand entrance onto the world hockey stage came the previous year when he scored the gold-medal winner in a shootout for Sweden at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.
"The 20-year-old faked to get Canada goalie Corey Hirsch moving to his right and, as he skated past the goal line, Forsberg reached back to tuck the puck just beyond the goaltender's leg pad with a one-handed backhand.
"But the goal that gave Sweden its first Olympic gold medal in hockey was far from his last moment of brilliance.
"During his 13 NHL seasons, Forsberg helped the Colorado Avalanche win Stanley Cup championships in 1996 and 2001. He won the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie in 1995 and made the First All-Star Team in 1998, 1999 and 2003.
"Plain and simple, Peter Forsberg was one of those players you couldn't take your eyes off of," Harris said. "He was an extraordinary playmaker, could score at any time, including when he was killing penalties. Focus can be an overused term in the sports vernacular but Forsberg had focus. To me this painting exemplifies that singular trait."