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Former NHL defenseman Salming enjoys current style

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- When Borje Salming broke into the NHL as a defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973, he was targeted by the League's toughest players; first because they wanted to see if he could stand up to physical abuse, but also because some players felt Europeans were stealing their jobs.

But with the speed and skill throughout the League in today's game, fighting in the NHL has been reduced to the point that a month into the season there are still three teams that do not have a single fighting major penalty.

"It probably would have been much better for me," Salming, 64, said Monday. "I used to say to people that Inge Hammarstrom, who came to Toronto with me, would have been great in today's game. When he came in he scored 20 goals, but he had exceptional skills and skating.

"I love today's game. That is the way hockey should be played."

Hammarstrom had a hard time dealing with the intimidation thrust upon he and Salming and wound up playing 427 games in the NHL with the Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues. Salming carved out a Hall of Fame career, scoring 150 goals and 787 points in 1,148 games with 1,344 penalty minutes.

"It was really awful sometimes," Salming said. "I mean, there was no rules. You could do anything. The penalty boxes were always full. I didn't back down because I wanted to play the game. I loved the game and I realized I had to stand up for myself."

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