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STOCKHOLM -- It was Sweden’s version of a splashy Hollywood red-carpet gala, from the high-end fashion to the country's rich and famous.

And it was impressive.

From actor Jason Priestley of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Private Eyes” notoriety, to NHL greats of today and yesteryear including John Tavares, William Nylander, Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, they strolled into the posh Sodra Teatern theatre to honor the memory of national hero Borje Salming for the premiere of the six-part series, “Borje: The Journey of a Legend” on Tuesday.

Brendan Shanahan, himself part of the festivities, watched the love-in for the late Toronto Maple Leafs legend, all the while understanding that this was motivation for the team Salming so loved to participate in the 2023 NHL Global Series Sweden presented by Fastenal, with the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings later this week.

“I think part of our coming here was our connection to Borje,” said Shanahan, the Maple Leafs president. “Sweden has left such an indelible mark not just on the sport of hockey, but also in the National Hockey League.”

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A year ago, Salming, losing his valiant battle against ALS, said goodbye to the capacity crowd at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto during 2022 NHL Hall of Fame weekend with heartfelt waves, his way of communicating since he was unable to talk. He died less than two weeks later.

When the NHL floated the idea of the Maple Leafs subsequently going to Sweden to play regular-season games, they jumped at the concept. This, after all, was a way to pay tribute to the NHL Hall of Famer who played 16 of his 17 NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs (1973-89) before finishing his career with the Red Wings (1989-90).

The weary Maple Leafs worked out for about 40 minutes at Hovet Arena on Tuesday after arriving in Stockholm, where they’ll play the Red Wings on Friday (2 p.m. ET; BSDET, NHLN, TSN4) and Wild on Sunday (8 a.m. ET; BSWIX, BSN, NHLN, SNO).

After practice, Nylander, Tavares, Timothy Liljegren and a handful of other Maple Leafs joined Shanahan and headed to the gala, which featured the premier of the docuseries. Anticipation of the program is palpable here in Sweden’s biggest city, where the Central Train Station is splattered with floor-to-ceiling posters promoting the series.

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For Shanahan, it brought back memories of the great Salming from another time, another era.

“I remember as a kid going to the Humber Theatre in the Toronto area to watch a movie,” he recalled. “I think I was going to the restroom. I wasn’t going to buy anything. I didn’t have any money.”

Suddenly, young Brendan looked behind him. There was Salming, the Maple Leafs’ star defenseman at the time.

“Just to hear the sound of his voice shocked me,” Shanahan said. “It was so deep and raspy. I just stood in line and watched him order. Then he left, and they asked me if I wanted anything. I said I had no money. I was about 9, and I think they understood that I was just there to look at Salming and watch him order.”

Salming became the first European NHL player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. In the process, he was the first in a line of Swedish star players to wear Toronto blue and white.

Sundin, who is Toronto’s leader in goals (420) and points (987), was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Nylander enters the Global Series with points in 15 consecutive games, a franchise record to start a season.

“Borje was a pioneer for Swedish hockey players,” said Sundin, one of the more popular figures to walk the red carpet. “To become the star he did in the National Hockey League earned him the respect of the fans in Toronto. All the general managers saw he really opened the doors for the rest of us to follow then realized, ‘We can actually draft and sign Swedish players. They’re good enough players.’”

Sundin then praised Nylander, the 27-year-old forward who has 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 15 games this season.

“We all know William is a great hockey player, and it’s great to see him get off to such a strong start this season,” Sundin said. “And knowing that Toronto is such a great team, hopefully he’ll continue like that and hopefully Toronto will have a great chance this spring.”

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Nylander estimates he’ll have roughly 100 friends and family for the upcoming games. He particularly pointed out that one of his grandmothers has never seen him play live but will have the opportunity this week.

For Tavares, who embraces the history of the Maple Leafs franchise, the chance to be here and embrace what players like Salming, Sundin and Nylander meant and still mean in Sweden is a unique and coveted opportunity.

“A hockey country like Sweden has produced so many great players, as has been the case with our organization currently and in the past,” said Tavares, the Maple Leafs captain who is on his first trip to Stockholm. “So, there’s a special bond and connection there and it’s great to emphasize that.

“I know Willie has brought this up, but kids here don’t get much of a chance to normally see us play because of the time change. So, this week is an opportunity for them to see us live here or on TV, so it’s great to inspire the next generation of kids in a hockey country that has obviously grown tremendously in that aspect the last number of years.”

Much the way Salming did for kids like Sundin decades earlier, when then-Maple Leafs general manager Gerry McNamara signed him in 1973.

“As much as we love Borje in Canada, he’s just as much a legend here, if not bigger,” said Priestley, who portrays McNamara in the series. “So, to be part of this was a huge honor for me.

“I’m very excited to be here.”