When Nicklas Backstrom first arrived in Washington, he was a shy 19-year-old who did not know English very well. Fellow Swede and former-Capital Michael Nylander mentored Backstrom to help him adjust to both American and NHL life. By inviting Backstrom over to his family house, Nylander unintentionally mentored his two young boys, William and Alex, at the same time.
“I was over there all the time,” Backstrom said to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston in April 2017. “I was playing ping pong with the kids and hanging out with their dad. I had dinners there. They took care of me, they were a big family, and I think they were cooking for the whole family so I don’t think they minded an extra guy.”
When Nylander retired from the NHL at the end of the 2009 season, the family lost touch with Nicklas Backstrom. Years later, Backstrom was reunited with them when Nylander’s son William made his NHL debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Eleven years later, in a video recorded by Sportsnet while the Leafs were in Washington in October 2017, the two reminisced of their years growing up together. Here are our eight favorite moments.
1.) Nicky waves to William
Professional athletes have everything they do with media managed by PR. Yet we are supposed to believe the two casually decided to dine outside of Capital One Arena with a throng of fans standing in the background. Nylander, like he’s Backstrom’s demure date, looks on smiling. A producer clearly has forced him to do this. Meanwhile an edited shot shows Nicky waving.
2.) Nicky and William embrace for a hug
When I greet my friends, I always have a camera crew taking a panorama shot of our handshake and hug. Definitely.
3.) NERVOUS PRODUCER
The producer of the clip, who likely had limited time to film such a complicated feature, is overwhelmed with nerves trying to hit all the important points of the segment. Omitting his name, Sportsnet includes his commentary and gives him the nickname NERVOUS PRODUCER.
4.) Normal conversation is hard
The film crew struggled to get the two to talk about anything natural. When their incredible give-and-go goal from the World Championship last spring was brought up, William described it thusly.
Producer: Can you guys talk about that give and go goal?
Nylander: Well I passed it to him and he passed it back to me.
5.) Nicky in the carpool line
Babysitter Backstrom reminisced about his time picking up the Baby Nylanders from school.
Backstrom: I picked you guys up at school a couple times, I think. I was standing in that carpool line, like sitting there.
Nylander: We were like ‘OOHHH NICKY’S HERE.’
6.) Ping pong battles with the Nylander brothers
Papa Nylander used to slay Backstrom at ping pong so Nicky would dominate William and and Alex to get his confidence back up. Though, William teased Backstrom, saying he only ever wanted to play the games he knew he could win.
7.) Nicky consoles William about his first playoff experience
When a producer asked the pair about playing each other in the playoffs, Backstrom, like Walter Cronkite in his prime, asked William about the experience. Using his arm in what’s best described as a motherly touch, Nicky consoles William when bringing up the six-game series. William touches Nicky’s shoulder back while giggling.
8.) NERVOUS PRODUCER tells lies
After the interview wrapped up, Backstrom asked how it went. The producer said it wasn’t too awkward. Totally.
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