Colorado Avalanche scout Anders Carlsson remembers vividly Swedish hockey legend Borje Salming sitting in his kitchen, drinking coffee with his dad when he was a kid growing up in Gavle, Sweden.
Carlsson’s father was the equipment manager of the local club that Salming played for, Brynas IF, before the Swede went on to play 17 years in the NHL.
Another memory that Carlsson remembers of Salming came during his first NHL game against his childhood idol when he was acknowledged with a small but meaningful gesture while his New Jersey Devils and Salming’s Toronto Maple Leafs faced each other.
“My first game in the NHL against Borje Salming, to stand on the ice and for him to give me a little blink with his eye, that was so big for me,” Carlsson said of the moment.
Carlsson joined Salming in another arena on Tuesday when it was announced during Sweden’s IIHF Men’s World Championship game against Denmark that he would be inducted into the Swedish Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.
“It’s a huge honor for me,” said Carlsson, who was elected into the Hall of Fame by a people’s vote. “There are not that many people that have been elected to the Hall of Fame so it’s quite the honor. The players in there were my idols as a kid and to be one of them is huge.”
Salming played over 1000 games in North America with the Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings and was one of the first individuals to be inducted into Sweden’s Hall of Fame. But Carlsson took a different path than his hockey hero as he played only three seasons in the NHL before returning to Europe to play in the Swedish Elite League.
Carlsson, who is in his seventh year as a professional and amateur scout for the Avalanche organization in Sweden, won three championship titles in the SEL and is the only player in league history to play in four decades (1979-86, 1989-2001).
He also represented Sweden at eight international tournaments, with one of his biggest moments on the world stage coming against Finland at the 1986 World Championship in the Soviet Union.
With Sweden down by two goals to its Scandinavian rival and with less than a minute to play, Carlsson scored twice in nine seconds to tie the game 4-4. The game ended in a tie, but the momentum from it helped Sweden take the silver medal at the tournament while Finland ended off the podium in fourth place.
Scoring two goals in nine seconds is special for Carlsson, but the moment that he’ll cherish the most came a year later in 1987, and again in 1991, when he helped Sweden to the gold at the tournament.
“In those World Championships, playing against all the best pros in the world, those two times [we won] were probably the best ones,” Carlsson said. “Playing with those great players like Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom, and winning titles with those guys is probably the thing that I will remember the most.”
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