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New immigration policy: sign a Swede
Mark Mulvoy
October 29, 1973
To arrest its ignominious backward slide, Toronto has daringly reached out to Europe for fresh talent—and has discovered that its imports not only can take the NHL's punishment but can dish it out as well
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October 29, 1973

New Immigration Policy: Sign A Swede

To arrest its ignominious backward slide, Toronto has daringly reached out to Europe for fresh talent—and has discovered that its imports not only can take the NHL's punishment but can dish it out as well

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As Hammarstrom and Salming anticipated, the NHL's tough guys have tried to intimidate them. In an exhibition game, Cowboy Flett of the Philadelphia Flyers warned Hammarstrom, "Touch the puck, Swede, and Ell break your arm." Hammarstrom, a 5'11" 180-pounder, told Flett where to go and skated away with the puck. Salming, strong and rawboned at 6'1" and 190 pounds, has been a particular target. Ed Van Impe of the Flyers speared him in an exhibition game, then broke his stick while spearing him in the stomach again during the second game of the season in Philadelphia. "He told everyone it was an accident," Salming says, "but I know—and he knows—it wasn't." Dave Schultz, the No. 1 Flyer tough, called Salming "chicken Swede" after Salming crashed him into the boards with a legal check. Schultz then waved his stick in Salming's face; in turn, Salming knocked Schultz' stick to the ice. "It is all part of the game with rookies," Salming says resignedly.

Hammarstrom finds the NHL game more disciplined than he anticipated. "In Europe there is more skating, more passing," he says. "Right now I skate around the ice too much. I must learn to go up and down my wing like the others. For me, that makes it more difficult to play here."

What bothers Hammarstrom most about the NHL is the prospect of boredom as the season grinds on. "In Sweden, hockey was our hobby, not our lives," he says. "I worked in an office from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Borje was a full-time student at a technical school. We practiced at night and played two games a week—on Thursdays and Sundays. We never had time to get bored. Here all we do is play and live hockey, and that will not be easy."

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