STOCKHOLM (Nov. 16, 2023) – The NHL Alumni Association (NHLAA) announced today that Nicklas Lidstrom is the recipient of the first annual ‘Borje Salming Courage Award’. This award is presented to a European NHL Alumni member who has been a positive influence in their community and best embodies Borje’s lasting legacy of bravery, courage, and dedication both on and off the ice.
“We are honoured to have Nicklas Lidstrom as our inaugural recipient of this award. Borje Salming’s impact in Sweden and Europe as a whole cannot be overstated. He paved a path for generations of international players to follow and achieve their dreams of playing in the National Hockey League,” said Glenn Healy, NHL Alumni Association Executive Director. “Nicklas is a true representation of what this award is all about. From supporting youth hockey initiatives to a ‘no ego’ attitude on and off the ice, he perfectly represents this award and the legacy behind it.”
Borje Salming, a trailblazing defenseman, first set foot in the NHL at the age of 22, marking a significant turning point in the League’s history. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ groundbreaking signing of Salming heralded the arrival of European players into the NHL, a move that was unheard of at the time. Salming’s journey not only defied conventions but also opened doors for countless European talents to follow in his pioneering footsteps. The Kiruna, Sweden native played in 1148 games, notching 150 goals, 637 assists for 787 points across 17 seasons from 1973-74 to 1989-1990. He was the first European born and trained player with 1,000 games played, holds the career record for most goals, assists and points by a Leafs defenseman and was named as part of the 100 Greatest NHL Players. “The King”, as he was named by his teammates, was the first Swedish player and second European born and trained player to be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. Salming also saw success on the international stage, representing the Swedish yellow and blue in the 1972 and 1973 World Hockey Championships. He helped Sweden win the Silver Medal in 1973 and was named to the tournament’s all-star team. His number, 21, was retired by the Maple Leafs on October 15, 2016.
The presentation of this newly created award marks the reignition of the NHLAA’s commitment to its European Alumni and heritage. “I am so honoured to receive this award. Borje was my hockey hero, so being able to be the first recipient means that much more,” said Lidstrom. “Being a trailblazer for Europeans, he changed the way teams perceived us and gave more Swedes like myself an opportunity to play in the League.”
Following in his idol’s footsteps, Nicklas Lidstrom was drafted 53rd overall in the 1989 draft to Detroit. He would go on to have the second most games played in Red Wings team history, captaining the team for six seasons (2007-2012). During his tenure, the Red Wings would never miss the playoffs. Along with his tremendous defensive prowess, Lidstrom netted 264 goals, and 878 assists for a massive 1142 points over his two-decade NHL career. The Vasteras, Sweden native’s resume includes seven James Norris Memorial Trophies (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011), four Stanley Cups (1997,1998, 2002, 2008) and a Conn Smythe in 2002. Along with Salming, Lidstrom was also selected as part of the 100 Greatest NHL Players and in 2006, became a member of the illustrious ‘Triple Gold Club’ following Sweden’s Olympic Gold Medal. Lidstrom’s number 5 was retired by the Red Wings in 2014 and the next year he was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Lidstrom and Salming were also named as recipients of the NHLAA’s ‘Man of the Year’ award in 2018 along with fellow countryman Mats Sundin. As a board member of the Borje Salming ALS Foundation, Lidstrom continues to support the legacy and charitable causes that were so important to Salming.