Leaf notes: Intertwined tales of Gerard Gallant and Borje Salming

Leaf notes: Intertwined tales of Gerard Gallant and Borje Salming

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NEW YORK — Gerard Gallant could have ended Borje Salming’s playing career 36 years ago but is grateful he was later able to call him a friend and teammate.

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It was November 26, 1986, when a pile-up at Joe Louis Arena resulted in Gallant’s skate blade smacking Salming hard in the face and narrowly missing the Maple Leaf defender’s right eye.

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Gallant said he was pushed from behind in the fight and lost his balance. Salming left a long trail of blood on the Toronto bench and almost collapsed in the arms of Bob McGill. It took more than 200 stitches from forehead to chin to mend her with the help of a specialist at a Detroit hospital. Few have forgotten the grisly post-op photo.

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Three years later, Gallant played for Canada against Salming at the World Championships in Stockholm – and got the villain’s treatment every time he touched the puck.

“You saw the scar,” said Gallant, the current Rangers coach who faced the Leafs on Thursday night. “There was a big article about me (in the local paper), this is the guy who did it. They all booed me. But Borje came out and said: “He never did it (on purpose), it was a complete accident.

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“He was a great man, it’s a shame to see what happened.”

Salming passed away from ALS a few weeks ago.

“A few years later we played (one season) in Detroit,” Gallant said. “Growing up as a kid (in Summerside, PEI) was amazing watching Borje and then getting the chance to play with him.

“I wasn’t a huge Leaf fan, but I was a huge fan of Borje, Darryl Sittler, and Errol Thompson, who was from my hometown.”


Mitch Marner arrived in New York with the same attitude as vacationers do in the Big Apple, ready to take on the crowd to get what he needed while feeding off the intense energy of the season.

“It’s always hot this time of year,” said Marner, who walked through a horde of shoppers and tourists to Madison Square Garden on Thursday morning in hopes of extending his points streak to 24 games against Rangers. “The city itself is always buzzing, especially at Christmas time with all the lights. At this time of year it is very special.”

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Coach Sheldon Keefe went for a walk Wednesday night after the Leafs’ plane landed.

“Nice time of year, nice city. Walking around was great. But you get up, it’s game day and we focus on what’s happening on the ice.”

Marner has brought members of his family with him on previous team trips.

“It’s always fun to play here. On the other hand, you will always meet a good team that will have a fairly rowdy fanbase. If you ask a lot of people, this building (the oldest in the league) has a lot of history.”


After Thursday, the focus will be on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.

With 41 of his 800 career goals against the Leafs (and 33 assists), he meets fellow Russian and former teammate Ilya Samsonov for the second time this season on Saturday, keeping him off the board to stay on a shrinking list while goaltender Ovechkin hasn’t met against.

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Ovie needed a goal against Dallas on Thursday to put Gordie Howe second on the NHL all-time list, and taking on or overtaking Mr. Hockey would add plenty of spice to the next encounter with the Leafs.


Toronto opened a valuable contract spot on its 50-man list on Thursday, signing Finnish defender Alex Rindell to unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. The 2020 late-round pick didn’t play much with the Marlies (six games, no points) and the organization is already trying to find enough ice time for other attacking defensemen… The only New Yorker on the Leafs’ roster, Staten Island native Zach Aston -Reese, wasn’t a fan of the Rangers, Islanders or Devils. “My dad (William) is from Pittsburgh, so growing up it was all black and yellow,” he said. “I’ve made it into a few Ranger games, I’ve loved the city commute, and I went to school at St. Peter’s (University) in Jersey City and have the (Staten Island Ferry) with my father took over. “I’ll have a small group of friends from Staten Island, my family and my girlfriend here (Thursday)” … ex-Marlie defenseman Ben Harpur was in the Rangers lineup. He was in the Cody Ceci deal with Ottawa but never fitted in with the Leafs.

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