How Swede it is

Don Cherry’s re­cent rant to the con­trary, the Maple Leafs con­tinue to have suc­cess with Swedish play­ers

Richmond Hill Post - - Looking Back -

What’s not to love about Swe­den? They’ve given us so much: Ikea, the Swedish Chef on The Mup­pet Show and a long line of fine hockey play­ers, many star­ring on our home­town Maple Leafs.

De­spite the rant­ing and rav­ing of Don Cherry, who very clearly urged the Toronto Maple Leafs to stop con­cen­trat­ing their ef­forts on draft­ing Euro­pean play­ers, it looks like another Swedish player is a po­ten­tial star. Although he didn’t stick with the big club this sea­son, Wil­liam Nylander had an im­pres­sive train­ing camp and will soon join the ranks of star Swedes to lace up for the Buds.

The first Swedish hockey player in the Na­tional Hockey League was Gus Fors­land, who suited up for a sea­son with the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors back in 1932–33.

But two things re­ally opened NHL teams up to the idea of Euro­pean play­ers mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions: one, Rus­sia’s per­for­mance in the ’72 Sum­mit Se­ries, and two, Toronto Maple Leafs de­fence­man Borje Salm­ing.

Salm­ing signed with the team in 1973 as a free agent, although the Leafs were orig­i­nally in­ter­ested in sign­ing Inge Ham­marstöm, who would also even­tu­ally be signed.

A six-time All-Star, Salm­ing is eas­ily one of the most popular play­ers in team his­tory. He was in­ducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.

The other prom­i­nent Swedish player in his­tory is, of course, Mats Sundin, who was also in­ducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Although he was drafted by the Que­bec Nordiques, Sundin played the vast majority of his ca­reer in Toronto. A fan favourite, he holds Maple Leafs team records for ca­reer goals, as­sists by a for­ward, points and as­sists in a pe­riod.

When Cherry spouted off about Euro­pean play­ers, it was Sundin that re­sponded in Nylander’s de­fence.

There are nu­mer­ous other Swedish play­ers who made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the team’s suc­cess, in­clud­ing Mikael Ren­berg, Jonas Hoglund, Calle Johns­son, Carl Gun­nar­son and Jonas Gus­tavs­son.

Hope­fully, Nylander, as well as other Maple Leafs prospects from Swe­den, such as An­dreas John­son, will prove Grapes wrong and take the team to the promised land.

Toronto Maple Leafs leg­ends Mats Sundin (left) and Borje Salm­ing are all the proof we need to con­tinue draft­ing Swedish play­ers

Inge Ham­marström

Goal­tender Jonas Gus­tavs­son

Maple Leafs prospect Wil­liam Nylander

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