Maple Leafs legend Borje Salming diagnosed with ALS

Börje Salming, the Maple Leafs legend who spent 16 seasons wearing the blue and white, has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the condition also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease

"I have received news that has shaken my family and me," he wrote. "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.

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."

ALS is a progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, deteriorating the motor neurons — the ones that are responsible for voluntary movements

movements such as talking and walking — which leads to a loss of muscle control, respiratory failure and, eventually, death. It can also impact a person's personality and cognitive functions.

Though the initial signs and symptoms of ALS vary significantly from person to person — a variation that has been attributed to different neurons being impacted at the start in different cases

Dr. Caroline Ingre, Salming's physician, wrote in the statement. "These patients also often have an associated emotional impact that manifests itself as uncontrollable laughter or crying."

The symptoms Salming, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, is currently experiencing were not specified.

Currently, the exact reason a person develops ALS is the subject of exhaustive research, but few firm answers.

The condition is inherited in 5 to 10 % of people, but for the rest, the cause is not known. Many theories rest on the condition stemming from an interaction between genetic and environmental factors.

There is no cure for ALS. However, there are treatments for people suffering from the syndrome to help manage its symptoms, improving a person's quality of life.

Over the last couple decades, there have been meaningful advances in therapeutics for those living with ALS.

Salming, 71, was a six-time All-Star defenceman for the Leafs from the 1973-74 season through 1988-89, spent the last season of his career with the Red Wings. In 1,148 career games, he had 150 goals

Salming, along with Inge Hammarstrom, were among the first Swedes to play in the NHL and are considered trailblazers among European players who followed.