Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 08/31/13 at 03:48 AM ET
When I go to my local NHL rink, I've become quite accustomed to seeing fans wear jerseys displaying the names of Swedes, Russians, Czechs and even Michiganders, but the NHL was once explicitly the realm of Canadians and only Canadians (as opposed to only in Don Cherry's head). As such, the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby's marking the 40th anniversary of a true trailblazer's journey to the NHL:
Leafs scout Gerry McNamara was sent to Sweden during Christmas of ’72, ostensibly to bring back slick winger Hammarstrom from a tournament that included the great Barrie Flyers senior team. But he widened the scope when he saw [Borje] Salming trade jabs and hacks with the belligerent Flyers. The lanky defenceman showed off an effective checking game, blocked shots and covered so much ice on breakouts. Just as noteworthy to McNamara was Salming in the thick of the scrums.
“Yeah, things got a little rough that day,” Salming reminisced on the phone, grinding laughter into his distinctive nasal tone. “My brother Stig and I knew the way the Canadians played (both were in the national squad’s chippy ’72 exhibition against Team Canada) and we decided we’d stand up for ourselves. I don’t remember the Canadian guy’s name I got into it with, but Stig and I weren’t going to be the ‘Chicken Swedes’ everyone talked about.”
Salming wound up with a game misconduct (one report said he’d shoved the referee) and was taking his equipment off when McNamara suddenly appeared in the dressing room.
“I don’t know how he talked his way inside the door,” Salming said. “But he gave me his card and asked right away, ‘Do you want to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs?’ ”
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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