Another Golf post? Another Golf post

Just like last year, Nicklas Bäckström and Jacob Markström spent a day in late August taking part in a golf event in Göteborg, and this time, Marcus Johansson and Viktor Stålberg tagged along. Unlike last year, a month later they can still hit the golf course whenever they like due to the lockout.
Le sigh.

Photo Credit: MPC Stjärngolf

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Marcus Johansson: ”I have very high expectations for myself.”

Marcus Johansson is heading back to Washington on Monday after spending time in Sweden over the summer. Marcus has his off season base in Karlstad, where he has lived since he was a teenager.

Marcus has practiced on ice with his former SEL team Färjestad two times a week in the time leading up to his departure for Washington. But he has put in more time at the gym this summer than on the ice.

“I haven’t spent that much time on the ice yet. I have focused more on the off ice training this summer. I think that is what I need the most right now.”

“I’m leaving for Washington on Monday [September 3], and our training camp starts on September 21,” Marcus Johansson told the Swedish paper nwt.se in an interview posted on the paper’s website earlier today.

Marcus Johansson on Färjestad's bench during practice. Photo: Erik Granqvist

Marcus Johansson on Färjestad’s bench during practice. Photo: Erik Granqvist

Last summer Marcus trained with Ulf Karlsson, the former coach of the Swedish track and field team.
This year Marcus has been working out with the former head athletic trainer for Färjestad, Jonas Asplund. Ulf Karlsson was the former head athletic trainer for Färjestad before Asplund. Just like Ulf Karlsson, Asplund has a background in track and field, both as an athlete and as a trainer. He worked for Färjestad back when Marcus played there. I think they go back as far as Marcus’s time as a teenager on Färjestad’s junior teams, so they are very familiar with each other.

Marcus has been training with the promising Minnesota Wild D prospect Jonas Brodin. Brodin was selected tenth in the 2011 draft, and he is moving to Minnesota to try to make the team this year.

Even though Marcus improved his points total from 27 in his rookie year to 46 in his sophomore season, he still thinks he can perform better.

“Sure, things have been going good for me, but I don’t think that I have outperformed expectations. I have very high expectations for myself. My big goal this year is to go all the way with Washington. I believe we have a team that is good enough to win the Stanley Cup. We were good enough to win it all last season too, but we had some bad bounces in the playoffs,” Johansson said to nwt.se.

Marcus had only good things to say about the additions George McPhee has made to the team over the last couple of months.

“We have added some really good new pieces like Mike Ribiero from the Dallas Stars. I’m also really excited about our new assistant coach Calle Johansson. Calle is very highly regarded in Washington, and Washington is the team that is closest to his heart.”

In an interview with Swedish paper Värmlands Dagblad last week before the Swedish Elite League decided to close the door to Swedish NHL players for now, Marcus talked about his feelings about playing in the AHL. Marcus Johansson said to Värmlands Folkblad on whether he would play with Färjestad or in the AHL: “It’s a possibility [that I will play in the AHL]. In the end it will be up to Washington to decide where I play. If they really want me to play there, then I guess I will have to do that. But I don’t think that any NHL player really wants to play in the AHL.”

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The Lockout from a Swedish Perspective

Hockeyligan is the organization that runs the Elitserien, which is often referred to as the Swedish Elite League (SEL), and is made up of representatives from each SEL team. Earlier today Hockeyligan sent out a press release that said that they will not allow short term contracts. Short term contracts are contracts that are shorter than a year. If a player signs with a team in the SEL in 2012-13, they will have to finish the season in Sweden and will not be able to leave if the NHL resumes play at any point before the Swedish season has ended. The head of Hockeyligan, Jörgen Lindgren, said to Expressen: “As of right now Hockeyligan believes that there will only be a short term lockout, if there is one at all, but if the entire NHL season is canceled we will look at the issue again. However that decision will come later. With our season starting in the middle of September, this feels like a good decision for the time being.”

The conclusion you can draw from this is that nothing is set in stone quite yet for the SEL in regards to NHL players. I guess time will tell what eventually will happen.

It’s possible that Hockeyligan will stick together and have a united front for the rest of the season. But here are some thoughts on why it easily could be a very divided group in a couple of months. First off, because Hockeyligan is made up of competitors, it’s always easy for them to agree on things before the season has begun.

Allsvenskan, the second tier division in Sweden, and Elitserien have two separate organizations. It will be interesting to see tomorrow if Allsvenskan’s governing organization comes to the same decision as the SEL did.

All this is of course a simplification of things. There are so many known and unknown factors to consider. When you don’t know exactly how the NHL will deal with things, it’s impossible to say for sure how another league will react and adapt to it. For example: The insurance issue; it will cost a lot to insure some of the long term contracts. Which rules will the NHL go by? Will they be the same as at the last lockout? How will waivers work? And so on.

The SEL starts on September 13 and no NHL players will be interested in playing in the league that early in the season anyway. Older players that have families and kids in school would have no interest in coming over early or until it’s determined that the whole season is canceled. Younger players that are still on their entry level deals have been informed by the NHLPA that their respective NHL clubs control where they play, meaning that they can send them down to the AHL if they so choose.

Marcus Johansson said to Värmlands Folkblad on if he would play with Färjestad or in the AHL. “It’s a possibility [that I will play in the AHL], In the end it will be up to Washington to decide where I play. If they really want me to play there I guess I have to do that then. But I don’t think that any NHL player really wants to play in the AHL.”

There are also, for lack of better words, the “in between” players that are no longer on their ELC’s and do not have families to consider.  Those players probably are the ones most interested in playing in the SEL earlier in the season, but they would probably desire to start playing in the SEL a few months after the season has started.  Nicklas Bäckström said to Expressen in an interview that was published a few hours before the Hockeyligan put out their press release, ”To be completely honest I haven’t really given it that much thought. I’m hoping of course that there won’t be a lockout at all. But of course, I have Brynäs in the back of my mind if there in fact is a lockout. But if there is a long lockout, my team of choice is Brynäs, there is no doubt about that.”

“It’s a tough situation and an unfortunate situation. I don’t want to come home and represent Brynäs for just a couple of weeks or a month. That just wouldn’t feel right.”

Elitserien does not have the safety net that the NHL has. Elitserien consist of 12 teams and is not a closed league. Every year teams may be relegated down to a lower league, and only 8 teams make the playoffs. The teams that finish at spots 9 and 10 in the standings will not make the playoffs but are guaranteed a spot in the SEL the next year. At the end of the regular season, teams in spots 11 and 12 have to compete against teams from the second tier league in Sweden, Allsvenskan, in what is known as the Kvalserien and they are not guaranteed a spot in the SEL the next year. They have to beat out the teams from Allsvenskan to stay in the SEL.

What this means is that every year at least four SEL teams are very likely to lose a lot of money. Many of the teams have a budget that calculates them getting revenue from at least one round of the playoffs to make a profit. For the teams that get relegated, they lose a lot TV rights money which is a big part of how teams survive. It’s a significant drop in sponsor and TV rights money when teams go from the SEL to Allsvenskan. They will have an enormous pressure on them as a team to move back up to the SEL in just one year. Because historically it becomes more difficult every year a team is stuck in Allsvenskan to move up to the SEL again.

In the NHL the teams that fail and finish in the bottom of the league are “rewarded” by high draft picks, but in the SEL, the teams are punished instead. Players usually have out clauses in their contracts for the possibility that the team is relegated so they can easily abandon the team and sign with a team remaining in the SEL. There are no player drafts either in the SEL so there is no influx of potentially very good players in the future for the teams finishing poorly in the standings.

It is easy to stay united before the season starts but it is not as easy later in the year when general managers are fighting for their jobs as their teams are fighting for playoff spots and trying to avoid the dreaded Kvalserien. If the best players in the world are available in that situation, it is easy to believe that a general manager would take the risk of signing a player even if the contract is not structured in the way the league had decided upon on a few months previous.

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Nicklas Bäckström on Calle Johansson, Filip Forsberg and the risk of a NHL lockout

A while back Nicklas Bäckström did an interview with Swedish paper Aftonbladet. He shared his thoughts on the risk of a potential NHL lockout and the addition of three new Swedes to the Washington Capitals organization.

Nicklas Bäckström on the hiring of fellow Swede Calle Johansson as a new assistant coach for the Washington Capitals:

”It’s really great that we got Calle. I know him a little bit and he is incredibly knowledgeable about hockey. If he can teach us everything he knows it would be perfect for us, especially for our D- men. Also, he is a great guy and will probably be good for the atmosphere as well.”

Bäckström on the potential lockout:

”I’m not involved in the negotiations, but I follow everything that’s happening via the internet. I actually think that it will work itself out in the end, but you have to have a plan B. If there is a lockout there is only one team for me in Sweden. I will only suit up for Brynäs and for no one else.”

Bäckström on dreams of the Stanley Cup:

“I always dream of the Stanley Cup, but I don’t want to put up one of those goals. We aim to make the playoffs to begin with. At the same time, it’s time for us as a team to take that next step now. It will be my sixth year, although it feels like I just got there last year, and Ovechkin’s eighth. Green has also been there for a long time. The years go by … We are the players that Washington focused their resources on. So we are the ones that have to make things happen.”

Bäckström on Tre Kronor:

”I was only there for three days for the last World Championships, I would have liked to have been there from the beginning instead. It’s not easy to fly in, in the middle of things like that. But we had a great team and I would love to do it again. As long as I’m free from injuries, I will always accept a Tre Kronor invitation. It’s an honour to represent my country.”

Bäckström on Filip Forsberg :

”It’s great that we added more Swedes to the team. We also picked Christian Djoos, Pär’s kid. [Ed.note: Christian Djoos’s dad, Pär Djoos, is a long time SEL player and he is currently working as a coach in Sweden.] Unfortunately I haven’t seen either of them play, but I have heard that they are both highly skilled players and very talented. They also seem to be good and humble guys. To have humble guys on the team is important. To be successful as a team you need to have humble players. You need to be humble to achieve success, I think.”

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Nicklas Bäckström and the 59 Meatballs

Nicklas Bäckström made a surprise visit to his former team Brynäs summer hockey school last Thursday to talk to the kids and to hand out some awards. The hockey school lasted for two weeks and ended with a very popular surprise appearance by Nicklas Bäckström.

The final day also included a lot of cake eating (Brynäs, in its one hundredth year of existence this year, won the Swedish championship) and awards handed out for best (hockey?) hair, and of course “the meatball of the week” award which was handed out to the kid who ate the most meatballs during the camp; this year’s winner managed to eat 59 meatballs.

Nicklas started out his career with Valbo HC (Valbo’s ice rink is now named after him) but moved on to play for Brynäs in his teens. The first Brynäs team he was on was their under 16 team.
“I started to play hockey when I was just 2-3 years old. That’s really early but I tagged along with my older brother and dad [Nicklas’s dad Anders played for Brynäs between 1978-88]. A while later I started playing at Valbo’s hockey school. I practically lived at the rink in Valbo,” Bäckström tells Brynäs’s official site.

Nicklas answered questions on what he does to keep up his motivation to train two times a day five days a week as he does in the summer,  how he deals with going through rough patches and a difficult injury like concussion, and if he has ever considered quitting hockey.

“No, I never got to the point that I wanted to give up on hockey. One of the things I love most about hockey is to just hang out with the guys in the locker room. However, I did spend a lot of time thinking about why I didn’t heal up properly and if I ever would feel good again.”

“The thing I liked most about hockey summer school as a kid was that it was filled with fun hockey stuff both on and off the ice. We also did other things such as going swimming. It was the combination of things that made it so much fun. I went to summer hockey school for 7 or 8 years as a kid and always had a great time.”

All the pics are courtesy of Brynäs.se, where you also can read more about Bäckström’s visit.

***

 

Nicklas Bäckström and Marcus Johansson will both play for Peter Forsberg and Markus Näslund’s charity team the Icebreakers this year. Nicklas Bäckström has played on the team for a couple of years but this year will be the first time for Marcus.

The team consists of current and former Swedish NHL players. They will play two games against Swedish teams this year: Timrå on August 8 and Visby on August 9.
The purpose of the Icebreakers is to raise money for sick children. They have raised 6 million Swedish kronor since the foundation was started in 2002. All of the players that take part in the event always say the same thing: playing in the games is fun but the reason they do it every year is to meet the children. They visit the children’s hospital in all the cities they travel to play in, as well as meeting all the kids that receive the money they raised through the games. It’s the interaction with the kids that makes it all worthwhile to the players.

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I absolutely loathe to write about golf. But it is for a good cause so…

On June 14 Nicklas Bäckström is hosting a charity golf tournament outside his hometown Gävle for the third year in a row.  Last year the Children’s Hospital in Gävle received 100,000 Swedish Kronor from his foundation. Bäckström’s foundation also gave away golf and hockey scholarships.

NHL-players like Henrik Zetterberg, Jacob Markström, Anders Lindbäck, Mikael Samuelsson, Magnus Pääjärvi and Marcus Johansson as well as some former NHL players are taking part in the tournament.

Nicklas Bäckström at Gävle Children's Hospital in 2010

Nicklas Bäckström at Gävle Children’s Hospital in 2010

”So far we have been able to donate 135,000 kronor. It’s great that so many people help out to make this whole thing possible,” says Nicklas’s dad Anders Bäckström to Gefle Dagblad.

*******

Nicklas told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that he thinks the LA Kings will beat the New Jersey Devils in five games.

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Nicklas Bäckström: ”I thought my season was over”

Just two days after the Washington Capitals had been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Nicklas Bäckström returned to Sweden to play in the World Championships. When he arrived at the airport in Stockholm, there was media waiting for him. Alexander Ovechkin jokingly told the media the next day that he and Alexander Semin arrived later then Bäckström in Stockholm because Bäckström and his girlfriend had charted a private plane, meanwhile Ovechkin and Semin had to travel in coach on a commercial plane. In reality they just traveled on different airlines.

Bäckström mostly talked about the WC tournament and his expectations of winning the gold medal for Sweden. Sweden had not won gold at the World Championships for 6 years. He also talked talked briefly about the concussion he suffered on January 3 after getting elbowed in the head by Rene Bourque.

Thanks to that vicious elbow, Nicklas Bäckström missed 40 games in the regular season. During that period, he had talked with the press about how frustrating it had been to deal with the concussion. He had always sounded optimistic about the possibility that he would be able to return  to play, but upon arriving in Sweden he admitted that wasn’t the way he felt privately.

Nicklas Bäckström arriving at Arlanda after a 10 hour flight still wearing the same clothes as when he did his "end of the season" interviews in Washington.

Nicklas Bäckström arriving at Arlanda after a 10 hour flight still wearing the same clothes as when he did his ”end of the season” interviews in Washington.

“It wasn’t fun, but it feels better now,” Bäckström said to Swedish newspaper Expressen. He followed up by admitting that he thought the whole season was in jeopardy.

“I actually said to myself that I think I’m done for the season and it would just be an added bonus if I were able to play any more games this season. It went a bit slow but it felt really good to be back playing.”

”It’s been hard and very frustrating. I think it’s the worst kind of injury you can have because you are not allowed to do anything. But I feel better now and it feels great to be back. I’m just so happy that I can stand here today and talk about playing hockey again,” Nicklas Bäckström told Swedish Radio.

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