The Maple Leafs discovered Salming and Hammarstrom in the spring of 1973 when scout Gerry McNamara decided to take in a game in Sweden between the Barrie Flyers, a senior amateur team from Ontario, and the Brynas team of the Swedish league. Hammarstrom immediately impressed McNamara as a goal scorer by beating the Barrie goaltender four times; Hammarstrom may not be an egg cracker in the NHL but he has scored a total of 60 goals in his three pro seasons. Salming, on the other hand, mainly impressed McNamara when he was thrown out of the game for fighting. "Well, we were playing a Canadian team, eh?" Salming says with a grin. McNamara visited the Brynas dressing room and invited Salming and Hammarstrom to Toronto for a tryout with the Maple Leafs. They accepted, and they both were in the Maple Leaf lineup for the opening game of the 1973-74 season.
"I've had to make some adjustments," Salming says. "I was basically a defensive defenseman in Sweden, but over here defensemen handle the puck more. I had to learn to turn quickly and go back for pucks that had been dumped into the corners. And I had to get used to all the stuff that goes on in the corners, too. But nothing was too difficult." Indeed. Salming has played in the NHL All-Star Game the last two seasons, and he is the player around whom the Maple Leafs revolve—offensively and defensively.
Better still, not even the bulliest Broad Street Bully calls Salming a "Chicken Swede" anymore. "I think in time I have earned my respect," Salming says. "I hit, I get hit. There is a lot more to the game than knowing how to fight." Says Dr. Wilson of Salming and all the Swedes, "They've proved something to the lumberjacks."