Team Canada '72 Helped Borje Salming Get Noticed By NHL Scouts
Borje Salming is widely recognized as not only a great NHL player, but a pioneer.
Salming was the first European born and trained hockey player to excel at the National Hockey League level. And Team Canada '72 played a role in Salming's getting noticed by Toronto Maple Leafs' scout Gerry McNamara.
Between games 4 and 5 of the Summit Series, Team Canada appeared in Sweden for 2 exhibition games before moving on to Moscow. The games are remembered in history for Team Canada's rough physical play and foul mood. Borje, and his brother Stig, were two of the best Swedish players in the 2 game set.
Salming remembered the initiation to Canadian hockey in his autobiography Blood Sweat and Hockey:
"We were awed just reading their names in the papers: Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito, Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Phil Esposito, Paul Henderson, Pete and Frank Mahovlich, Stan Mikita, and Bobby Clarke, to name a few. I had never dreamed of playing against them.
"But the 1972 series demonstrated that the North American professionals were mortal, just like the rest of us."
Salming, like most of Europe, was shocked at how violent the Canadians were.
"The only facet of the game in which we were clearly overmatched was the bodychecking, whacking, and tackling."
"The rough play was new to us. According to Swedish rules, violent tactics drew penalties. but the referees looked away and we were unprepared to handle it on our own. Before the second game, our coach, Kjell Svensson, ordered us to abandon our passive ways and play an eye for an eye style."
The Salming brothers were quite endeared to the physical game, and made an impression in the games.
However it wasn't in these games that Leafs scout Gerry McNamara noticed Salming. It wasn't until approximately Christmas time 1972 that that happened. A Canadian amateur team, the Barrie Flyers, was touring Sweden, and McNamara made the trip to scout the Swedish team and specifically goalie Curt Larsson.
The Barrie Flyers continued the slashing and hacking tactics, this time the Salming brothers had a better understanding of Canadian hockey thanks to the Team Canada '72 initiation back in September. The Salmings refused to back down and instead returned everything they got. Borje was so exuberant he actually flattened the referee and was kicked out of the game.
Borje says that after being banished to the dressing room, McNamara made his way down to the hallway and introduced himself.
McNamara also came away impressed by Inge Hammarstrom, who scored 4 goals in that game. Although he wasn't as adept at the physical game, his offensive game was good enough to convince McNamara to invite him to North America as well..