He was known in the NHL as "Big Bird" thanks to the popularity of Sesame Street, which had become a huge success when Don Saleski began his career with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1972. As legend had it, as the Flyers skated around in their pre-game warm up, a small fan commented that Saleski looked like the big yellow bird with the elephant friend that no one could see, which of course a teammate overheard. The nickname was born.
Saleski was drafted 6th by the Flyers, (64th overall) in the 1969 Amateur Draft from the Regina Pats; (the draft would also see the Flyers take Bobby Clarke in the first round). His first full season with the Flyers was in 1972-73 when he scored 21 points in his rookie campaign. Known as a defensive forward, he broke out in only his second year with the team, scoring 40 points in 77 games and winning the Stanley Cup. Saleski and the Flyers were back in the finals once again the next season and took home a second straight Cup. The 1975-76 season saw Saleski finish with career highs in assists with 26, points with 47 and the first of three straight years with 20 or more goals.
Saleski was traded during the 1978-79 season to the Colorado Rockies. Head coach Don Cherry and Saleski didn't see eye to eye on several issues and Big Bird's stay in Colorado was rocky, to say the least.
In 1980, Don Saleski retired from hockey and entered the business world. Bobby Clarke said of Saleski: "The success he had was due to willingness to work, to put an effort toward what he wanted, and to just about do anything to achieve it."