Thursday, Capitals first-line center Nicklas Backstrom suited up in a game for the first time since Team Sweden won gold at the 2017 World Championship. Along with fellow Brynäs alum, Caps defense prospect Christian Djoos, Backstrom played in the team’s annual Black and White scrimmage. Backstrom played parts of three seasons with his hometown SEL team before starting his career with the Capitals.
Days before the scrimmage however, Backstrom made news during an interview with national outlet Aftonbladet. The discussion focused primarily on the NHL’s unpopular decision to forbid its players to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“Of course it’s sad,” Backstrom said. “But what the hell are we supposed to do?”
Backstrom who said he hopes for a last-minute reversal in the decision spoke generally about what might happen if certain players ignored the NHL’s orders. Backstrom’s longtime teammate Alex Ovechkin has been steadfast that he will participate regardless of the NHL’s mandate. Meanwhile Caps owner Ted Leonsis has promised that he would not stop any Capitals player from doing so.
“Well sure, but at the same time – you can’t allow some players to go and hold others back,” Backstrom said. “If one goes and others stay… I don’t know. The question is what the NHL does (in response)… We want to go, the NHL doesn’t want us to go and they own us. It’s a really unfortunate situation.”
The full interview, translated by Magnus Cadelin, is below.
Backstrom on winning a World Championship gold medal with Sweden.
Nicklas Backstrom: “To be a part of a winning team certainly motivates me to win even more. That’s why you play the game, to win. It’s a confidence booster and gives me a good feeling heading in to the new season. A feeling I’m hoping to bring to the [Capitals].”
Backstrom on scoring, what ended up being, the decisive shootout goal in the gold medal game.
Nicklas Backstrom: “Obviously it was fun to see it go in, it was an incredibly important shootout. At the same time, we came together great as a team. It brings a smile to my face and makes me happy to think back to those memories. I’m happy just talking about it.”
On his chemistry with William Nylander. He hasn’t seen him during the summer.
Nicklas Backstrom: “No, we haven’t had the time. I think both of us have been pretty busy, but we’ve had some contact over the phone. I had a great time playing with him and I hope we can do it again.”
Backstrom on the 2018 Winter Olympics. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is forbidding NHL players from playing.
Nicklas Backstrom: “Of course you want to play in the Olympics. It will be interesting to see what the NHL does with a player who may go there. As most of them, I hope to get the chance to play, it’s a dream you’ve had since you were a kid.”
On if he hopes the NHL changes their position.
Nicklas Backstrom: “Sure, I hope for it, but I think it will be difficult with the schedule for the NHL already put together. But of course, I still have hope.”
Ted Leonsis said he won’t stop any player who want to go to the Olympics.
Nicklas Backstrom: “Well sure, but at the same time – you can’t allow some players to go and hold others back. If one goes and others stay… I don’t know. The question is what the NHL does (in response)… We want to go, the NHL doesn’t want us to go and they own us. It’s a really unfortunate situation.”
Backstrom on his disappointment in the situation.
Nicklas Backstrom: “Of course it’s sad. But what the hell are we supposed to do?”
Backstrom is praciticing at the rink in Sandviken, just outside his hometown of Gavle. Alongside him is Caps young defenseman Christian Djoos and Elias Lindholm as well as their dads, Per and Mikael. Backstrom hopes this will become an annual tradition.
Nicklas Backstrom: “It would be great to see more guys next year. If you know it’s this certain week each year, it’s easier to plan for. It’s more common in North America, but I hope we can do something similar here. Only in the Gavle area there’s about 10 guys playing in the NHL and we should be able to do something here.”
Nicklas Backstrom: “I had a good feeling last year. But you always want to be better. You can’t be happy with where you are, you have to continue, there’s always room for improvement.”
Meanwhile, Backstrom suited up for Team White during the scrimmage. Backstrom did an interview during the game and signed autographs for fans afterwards.
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Headline photo: aftonbladet.se
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