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Brokaw: ‘Börje – The Journey of a Legend’ is a fascinating story

By Francine Brokaw - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jun 15, 2024

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“Börje - The Journey of a Legend” can be streamed on Viaplay.

Now available on the Viaplay streaming service, "Börje - The Journey of a Legend" looks at the life and career of a hockey legend, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. This six-part series stars Valter Skarsgård as Swedish born Börje Salming, whose skills in the game made him a legend. This true story focuses on not only his triumphs on the ice but also his personal relationships and life away from the rink.

Hedda Stiernstedt co-stars as Margitta Salming, the love of his life who stood by him through thick and thin. Jason Priestley is hockey scout Gerry McNamara, Pelle Holmström is Inge Hammarström, a fellow Swedish hockey player who joined the NHL with Börje, and Oscar Skagerberg is Stig Salming, Börje's older brother and also a remarkable hockey player in his own right.

The series follows Börje from his small town of Kiruna in Sweden, where he was taunted and bullied, to the end after his glorious career. From there, he joined his brother on the Brynäs IF team where he and fellow teammate Hammarström were enticed to Toronto, where they both signed with the Maple Leafs. McNamara knew the potential Börje possessed. Although he was there to scout Hammarström, his gut told him to also sign Börje, and his gut proved right.

In the beginning, the young Swede did not understand a word of what his coach was telling the team. But thanks to his girlfriend and soon-to-be-wife Margitta, who went with him to Canada, he soon became proficient in the English language.

Börje was a feisty player and would not let anything or anyone get the better of him on the ice. His gutsy behavior won the hearts of the fans and the front office, namely Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard (A.C. Peterson). But his prowess as a player also proved to be worthy of his salary. He was intent on brining the Stanley Cup to Toronto, and year after year he played his heart out. Along with racking up plenty of goals and assists, this man had a long list of injuries that would sideline most men. But he never let anything stop him from going back on the ice to help his teammates. Even when he lost 50% of his vision, this man was like the energizer bunny. He just kept going and going, scoring goals and defending himself and his teammates.

The old joke "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out" might be a throwback to the days of Salming. Yes, he was a fighter, but he also was a formidable athlete.

Salming spent 16 years with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was the first European to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and demonstrated to other European players that the NHL was the place to be when it came to playing hockey. It is touted as the world's best and toughest hockey league, and Salming could be the poster boy for that acclaim.

Throughout his career, Salming was a six-time all-star for the Maple Leafs, and he earned the love of the city and the respect of his fellow hockey players throughout the NHL. He epitomized the spirit of the game.

It's interesting to see the hairstyles, cars and especially the clothing change as the times change. For those who remember the 1970s, the first part of this series will take you back to that era. It is like a blast from the past.

Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Mario Lemieux might be the names most thought of when thinking about the greatest hockey players, but Börje Salming is right up there. If you don't know who he was, this film will enlighten you to the triumphs of this inspiring man. It is an interesting and amazing story.

The series ends with the real Börje Salming walking down the street. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 71 in 2022 from ALS. This series was being produced prior to his illness, so he lived long enough to see it come to fruition.

Skarsgård is amazing in this role. He comes from an acting family and is the son of popular Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård.

The six-part series can be seen on the Viaplay streaming service. It is in English with subtitles during the Swedish dialogue, which after the first episode is minimal.

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