Ice Hockey-Former Maple Leafs great Salming left "shaken" by ALS diagnosis

STOCKHOLM, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Borje Salming announced on Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with the progressive nervous disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and that the condition has left him "shaken".

The news came in an emotional joint statement issued by the 71-year-old National Hockey League Hall Of Famer and the Maple Leafs, the club where he spent 16 seasons blazing a trail for European players in North American pro hockey.

"I have received news that has shaken my family and me," Salming is quoted as saying. "The signs that indicated that something was wrong in my body turned out to be the disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

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"In an instant, everything changed. I do not know how the days ahead will be, but I understand that there will be challenges greater than anything I have ever faced," he added.

A huge fan favourite, Salming scored 150 goals and recorded 637 assists in his NHL career with the Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings before returning to Sweden, and the announcement was greeted with an outpouring of support in his home country.

"Borje, I'm thinking of you at this difficult time," former NHL defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom told newspaper Aftonbladet. "You were my idol and I know you're going to do everything you can to fight this awful illness, just like you did on the ice."

Also known as motor neuron disease, ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that results in the progressive loss of motor neurons that control voluntary muscles, and there is no known cure.

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Reporting by Philip O'Connor Editing by Christian Radnedge

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