Photo: Sanford Myers
In a month, the Washington Capitals will likely end the season as the NHL’s best team with a home-ice advantage through the Stanley Cup playoffs. One of the team’s biggest contributors is Nicklas Backstrom. Sunday, Expressen’s Magnus Nystrom released a long feature on the aforementioned Backstrom, featuring exclusive interviews with the Caps first-line center and his family.
We learn that while Backstrom is stubborn, he’s also becoming even more comfortable as a leader — even with captain Alex Ovechkin.
“[Ovi’s] the guy I’ve yelled at the most,” Backstrom said to Nystrom, explaining the two teammates hold each other to a high standard. “We’ve played together every year I’ve been here, often on the same line and I’m the guy he’s yelled most at too. We’ve had real arguments on the bench where we have stood and barked at each other.”
Backstrom also shares his thoughts on his nightmare in Sochi, fighting his older brother in games, and his daughter Hayley.
“[She] is the best thing that happened to my life,” Backstrom said.
Magnus Cadelin has your translation.
Backstrom on trying to lead the Caps to the Stanley Cup:
“I’ll be a leading player. That’s what I’m paid for. And the absolute worst thing I know is people who put the blame on others.”
Backstrom speaks with Nystrom about the World Cup:
[Backstrom]’s no longer the shy boy from Valbo, who made his World Championship debut at age 18 and didn’t want to speak to the media at all. Now he tells me that the night before he read all the rosters for the World Cup and I ask him which one that has impressed him the most.
The 18-year-old Nicklas would have politely mentioned all of the teams.
28-year-old Nicklas instantly fires away.
“Sweden!” Backstrom said.
It’s me who has to try and point out that Team Canada would serve as the front runners.
“We’ll say that,” Backstrom responds. “Canada won the Olympics last time too but… It’ll still be interesting. It’s always fun to play for the national team, we always have high goals. We always play to win. We’re not going to Toronto to finish third…”
Backstrom speaks to Nystrom about chirping Alex Ovechkin and more on personal responsibility.
“The absolute worst people I know are the ones who put the blame on others,” Backstrom said. “I can’t handle it.”
Suddenly he looks pissed off.
“If you miss a pass, a lot of guys can complain, ‘Why didn’t he skate that way?'” Backstrom said. “Or when your team allows a goal, players can say, ‘But I marked my man!'”
He puts his knife and fork down and strikes out with his hands.
“What do you mean, ‘You marked your man?’ We’re a team. I don’t buy that kind of talk,” Backstrom continued. “When I first got to Washington, in my first year I saw that tendency in our team. People went, ‘But I did my work.’ You have to work together and back each other up. That’s the way you need to work. And that’s what we do now.”
Bäckström stil lets his teammates hear it. Even Alexander Ovechkin.
“Yeah, he’s the guy I’ve yelled at the most,” Backstrom said. “We’ve played together every year I’ve been here, often on the same line and I’m the guy he’s yelled most at too. We’ve had real arguments on the bench where we have stood and barked at each other.”
You were angry for real?
“Oh yeah, really,” Backstrom responded.
What’s that about?
“It often starts when one of us gets a bad start to the game, a bit sleepy or is a bit sloppy with something,” Backstrom said. “But then you need to hear it – and it wakes you up. We have a great deal of respect for one another, we listen to each other and then heads out on the ice do what we’re supposed to do.”
Backstrom on fighting his big brother Kristoffer during youth hockey games:
Growing up, Nicklas played land hockey with his brother and his friends. Even there he got the hardness, toughness and smartness he still uses to his advantage. Nicklas was also one of the smallest in his Little League team and was late in development, so he was never able to assert himself physically against his opponents.
“I had to be smarter than them instead,” Backstrom said.
He’s still smarter then most. And he can handle a punch. Largely thanks to his big brother.
“Nicklas was always hanging out with us,” older brother Kristoffer said. “It was a good ‘school’ for him. He had to take the tough way, he didn’t get anything for free. He could go home and cry but then we wouldn’t let him play next time.” Kristoffer admits he from time to time could be mean to his younger brother.
Nicklas smiles when I bring it up.
“It was good for me to play with my brother and his friends and I often practiced with older players,” Backstrom said. “One time, I — who was born in 1987 — got to play a game with the guys born in 1983. It went pretty well. We played Tierp.”
But you and your brother have some fights?
“We competed in everything,” Backstrom said. “And yes.. we fought a lot.”
Did you like punch each other?
“Sometimes, actually,” Backstrom said. “I got the worst of it. Then we went to our room and pouted for a while.”
Backstrom on how his daughter Haley changed him:
Nicklas and I talk a bit about children at the Old Ebbit Grill.
“Obviously you change when you become a father,” Backstrom said. “I’ve calmed down. Before I could pout a long time after a game, but you can’t do that when you come home to a laughing kid. Haley is the best thing that happened to my life.”
Did anyone buy a hockey stick for Haley?
“She has a stick and a tiny goal,” Backstrom said. “But right now she’s mostly into dolls. And I’m happy when she is happy and does the things she likes to do.”
We talk being a parent and I ask him about the best advice he got from home.
“They never put any pressure on me,” Backstrom said. “If I wanted to talk about anything, I got to start. But as a kid, they never told me to do this or that. Sadly, all parents aren’t like that. I think a lot of kids get pressured from home, to a point where the sport isn’t as fun anymore. It saddens me to hear such things.”
Backstrom on being suspended in the gold-medal game of the Olympics for failing a drug test (due to an allergy medication):
“The only thing I think about that, is that it’s a damn shame I didn’t get a chance to play the final,” Backstrom said. “I sat down with Niklas Kronwall and talked about it, I was both sad and angry. It’s the worst I’ve been through, in the sport.”
Translation by Magnus Cadelin.
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