Burra being Burra

Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman chatted with the Swedish players ahead of last night’s game. This short passage from his blog made me laugh, even though the Caps lost the game.   

Bäckis starts to smile every time you mention Burakovsky’s name, leaving one with the impression that the young Scanian does and say funny stuff all the time, and today I demand to hear an example.  

Nicklas och Burra.
Valbo’s finest, while still smiling, gives in and provides me with a story.

The guys on the team asked who it was that said ”Sting like a bee, float like a butterfly” and Andre answered, ”Yes, I know that – Barack Obama!

When his laughing friends explained to him that no, it’s actually the most classic boxer of them all, Burracuda said, ”Aha, then I know who it is – Mustafa Muhammed!”

Here’s another Burra:
When he first arrived in Washington he borrowed Bäckis’s car to pick up some friends at the airport. He manged to get pulled over for speeding.
Slightly worried, he calls up Bäckis and asks him what to do.

Bäckis sighs and asks ”How fast were you going?”

”Um, yeah, 80.”

”But how could you drive at 80 when you know that the speed limit is 55?”

”Yeah but, the road was going down hill…”

Andre just sighs when he hears the type of anecdotes Bäckis, with helpful assistance from Marcus Johansson, has told me.

”Those two…I have to listen to so much from them. Old men….”

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Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part II )

Expressen’s hockey reporter Magnus Nyström made a stop in Washington during his recent NHL trip. He sat down with Nicklas Bäckström and they recorded a 65 minute podcast together, on what I think was October 30, or thereabouts. The main subject of their conversation is what everyday life for a NHLer is really like. I divided the translation into two parts. My translation of the second part of the podcast is below.  
If you missed the first part of the conversation click here.

 

Let’s talks some about the travel. Back in the old days, teams flew commercial, but it’s not like that anymore. I remember once when I saw you in Philadelphia, you even got to do the airport security check in at the arena, with personnel from the airport.   

 

We have great conditions when we travel and the planes are great. And as you said, when we travel between American cities we usually have the check in at the arena after the game, that way things run much more smoothly.

 

And then the bus takes you right out to the plane?  

 

Exactly. It makes it easier and it saves us some time going home.

 

And it’s not exactly a crowded economy class on your planes.

Landing in Tampa. photo credit: Washington Capitals

Landing in Tampa. photo credit: Washington Capitals

Yeah, I’d say so. we have a nice plane and seats.

 

How do you pass the time during the many and long trips?

 

I sit at one table playing cards with some of the guys. It’s good to have something to do actually.

 

Who takes part in the card playing?  

 

Mike Green, Ovechkin, Orpik, Brouwer and Marcus Johansson.

 

Who is the best player?

 

We play a game called snarples and you can’t really be good at it. A different person wins every time. At the moment Brooks Orpik is winning a lot.

 

Is there a lot of money at stake?

 

No, there isn’t.

 

Brooks Orpik is a big, mean d-man and when you faced him, you can’t have thought that he was the nicest of teddy bears. You must have been pretty pissed at him on occasion, right?    

Absolutely.

 

You could have cursed at each other on the ice.

 

Yeah, that could have happened.

 

So how is it when you are suddenly in the same dressing room. Do you talk about things that have happened, or do you just laugh it off and move on?

 

No, you don’t. Now when we are on the same team we are friends.

 

But you can joke about it sometimes?

 

Yes, but we haven’t really done that just yet and we never did say all that much to each other. I’m not really a person that trash talks a lot. It happens on occasion but not that often.

 

You guys are flying all the time, are you comfortable up there, during turbulence and such. I think Wayne Gretzky admitted at one point that he wasn’t completely comfortable with flying.

 

I have no problems with takeoffs and landings. I don’t think anyone thinks it’s fun when it’s bumpy up there, so if I’m afraid, it’s about that. When I was younger, I was more afraid of flying then I am now. I have gotten used to it over the years.

 

It becomes a habit of course and it’s more dangerous to drive than fly.

 

Yes, that’s what they say, so I guess you have to trust that.

 

Have you ever been on a flight where people got really scared?

 

No, not really. It’s always windy outside of New York and Boston. I’m used to it being a bit bumpy there. No nightmare flights for me so far. Knock on wood.

 

How do you like the “on the road” lifestyle? Some people hate living in hotels and others love it. I remember Foppa liking it a lot, to live well and eat well.

 

I don’t have any problems with going on road trips and living in hotels, but at the same time, it is nice to sleep in your own bed. You get used to it, I mean, as you said, we live in good hotels and have good planes. You get used to it pretty fast and it becomes a routine. You create routines for yourself and you do pretty much the same thing every time you go on a road trip: you get in, relax for a while and wait until six-seven, then you go out for dinner, then back to the hotel and sleep. Same thing every time.

 

Do you ever get to do something other than that?  

 

When we were in Canada this time we had two days in Calgary and the whole team went curling one day. That was pretty fun.

Curling in Calgary. (photo credit: Washington Capitals )

Curling in Calgary. (photo credit: Washington Capitals )

 

Have you tried it before?

I’ve done it once before and I was disgustingly bad at it, but I was a bit better this time around. I like to watch curling on TV during the Olympics, especially since Sweden is very good at it. It feels like it’s Canada and Sweden that are competing for the gold all the time. As I was saying, curling is huge in Canada and the curling club we were at were apparently the most popular club in Canada when it comes to visitors and getting ice times. I suppose they really like curling in Calgary.

 

But you did put some rocks in?

 

Yes, our team finished in second place actually.

 

Were any of the other Swedish guys on your team?

 

No.

 

Do you have any favorite cities in North America that you like to visit on road trips?

 

LA is always fun, since we are not there very often. It’s a cool town, it’s huge and there’s always nice weather. Everything on the west coast is very pretty, like San Jose. If you look at it from a hockey perspective I’d say Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Vancouver is incredibly pretty, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in. I remember Vancouver from the Olympics too, it’s really an incredible place.

Milan Jurcina vs. Nicklas Bäckström during the Vancouver Olympics. Vancouver( photo credit: Bruce Bennnet )

Milan Jurcina vs. Nicklas Bäckström during the Vancouver Olympics. Vancouver( photo credit: Bruce Bennnet )

 

Other things you can do, golf?

 

Last year we had time for some rounds on the western road trip: LA and San Jose. We had a great round at Stanford University.

 

Have you ever done anything a little bit more outside the box? I remember Markus Näslund telling me that when Vancouver were in Washington, instead of a normal practice Mike Keenan told them to quit whining and took them to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, pointed to the wall with the names of the fallen soldiers, and asked if they were still feeling sorry for themselves, which they obviously weren’t.  

 

Nothing on the same level as the Vietnam Wall but now this season Barry Trotz is a person that…we got the opportunity to see how things work in the Navy as a preseason team building activity.

 

On a marine base?

 

In Annapolis about 45 minutes from here. We walked around and got to see how they worked and studied. We had lunch with what I think was 5500 marines. It was pretty cool when they rung a bell, everyone was quiet and we got introduced and after that they were allowed to get food. It felt like in a movie. Things like that are a unique experience for someone from Sweden like me, to see how America works in that way.

It was very instructive for us, too, to see how things work in military and Navy, that you have to work together, like we have to do on the ice. We listened to a great speech from an old marine. He talked about how it was during the Vietnam War. It was truly inspiring for us and very illuminating.

 

You have done some charity work on the streets in Washington.

 

I have done some different things.

 

You transported food to homeless people living on the streets.

 

Exactly, it’s a thing we do within the team and I personally wanted to do it. I felt that it was important to me. I felt like it was important for me to come out and meet those people and really understand how they view things. When you know that you are living a privileged life, it’s important to get out and talk to people and see the world through their eyes for a moment, and maybe hear their thoughts on what went wrong in their lives.

 

How did they react when a hockey star was serving them food all of a sudden?

 

There were only positive reactions. They thought it was a bit comical that a hockey player was helping out with the food. But I hope they thought it was a good thing.

S-Army photo credit: Washington Capitals

S-Army photo credit: Washington Capitals

 

This is something they are really good at in North America, isn’t it? Different charity projects like visiting children’s hospitals. Something that Markus Näslund and Peter Forsberg have been getting a lot of attention and praise for bringing with them back to Sweden, and rightfully so. I forgot the name of the organization?

 

Icebreakers.

Nicklas Bäckström playing with the Icebreakers against Västerås in August 2010.

Nicklas Bäckström playing with the Icebreakers against Västerås in August 2010.

 

Right, that is something they have been inspired by from their time over here, because this is something you do every so often.

 

Yes, and it’s very important to understand that we might be role models for some people, kids in the surrounding areas where we live, and because there are a lot of hockey fans in different cities I think all teams do different charity projects: visit children’s hospitals and do things with season ticket holders, feed the homeless, different things all the time. It’s important to give back to people that mean a lot to us.

 

At the same time, sometimes you met very sick kids, kids that might even be facing death. It can’t be an easy thing to do for someone like yourself that has a small child of your own. It’s got to be very hard emotionally.

 

It’s very emotional, actually. You can see how the children are really suffering. Some of the time, the parents are there too, you can see how much pain they are in, and you feel it inside yourself as well, so it’s very emotional.

 

A visit from you can really mean a lot.

 

That’s what you are hoping, that it can bring them joy and maybe get them to laugh a little.

Nicklas and Brynäs’ mascot Tiger visits 16-year old, Amani Mend. “My brother Ibrahim said that he would come in via the emergency room to meet you”, said Amani. (photo credit: Conny Svensson)

From August this year: Nicklas and Brynäs’ mascot Tiger visits 16-year old, Amani Mend. “My brother Ibrahim said that he would come in via the emergency room to meet you”, said Amani. (photo credit: Conny Svensson)

 

Even though they are having a hard time.

 

Yes.

 

Back to hockey. You were talking about equipment and using a new stick every game, there are even those who use a new stick for every period of the game. What’s the worst you have seen when it comes to skates and sticks in your surroundings?

 

Well, one that is going through a lot of sticks is Ovechkin, of course, since he is shooting quite a bit. I would say that he goes through a stick per period. Everyone is different, some are very picky and they want things done in a very specific way. Others are more relaxed about it.

 

On a game day, you come to the arena, and then what?    

 

I do pretty much the same thing every time: I arrive on game day, I change clothes, get to to my stall, throw my pants and shoulder pads on the floor. I take a new stick, prepare it so it’s freshly taped. After that I fetch three waters and put them at my spot.

 

Three water bottles?

 

Yup, three water bottles.

 

And it’s gotta be three? Two or four won’t suffice?  

 

Eh, I don’t know why it’s three. Maybe because it’s one for every period? After that I stretch some, get some treatment, go to meetings; before the game it’s usually a power play meeting and one on how we should play, everyone attends that meeting.

 

They show you how the other teams PK and PP works and other details in their game.

 

Exactly. We see how the opposing team plays and what we should do playing against them, so that we can win the game. Those meetings are usually over pretty quickly because everyone have thing to do, like warming up.

 

How much do the coaches talk about specific players on the opposing team?

 

It happens occasionally. Some teams have some players that you have to look out for, like Crosby and Malkin.

 

If you are meeting Detroit what would coach Trotz say about Henrik Zettterberg?

 

He would say that we should keep an eye on him when he is on the ice. He is that type of player that you can’t let him out of your sight, then anything can happen.

 

Do you get information about how he has been acting the last couple of games and whom he has been playing with?

 

Well, not the statistics?

 

I mean more how things have looked on the ice. In addition to amateur scouts, all teams also have several pro scouts that look at the opposing teams.

 

Exactly.

 

So before every game a scout has given a report on how the opponent is going to play to Barry Trotz.

 

Exactly. They also get video of their previous games that they break down and analyze. Like tomorrow when we play Detroit, there’s Zetterberg, as you said, and also Datsyuk that is very highly skilled and technical.

 

Can it be the other way around too. If they have a rookie for instance, that you might be able to take advantage off? It’s not just talk about the good players.

 

It’s all about those special players.

 

But it can be special in both a positive and a negative way?

 

Absolutely, of course it can. But at the end of the day it’s still mostly about how the team plays: their system, breakouts, forecheck, and things like that. If there is a special player he mentions that, but there’s no specific film on that individual, it’s more about what they do as a team.

 

Is there one last meeting between warm ups and the actual game?  

 

The final meeting is one and half hour before the game begins, so an hour before the on ice warm ups, and after that we play soccer and some players do some other things, like stretching.

 

You are part of the circle that always play soccer.

Yeah, I like to play soccer as the warm up.

 

When do things get serious before the game?   

 

I would say that it happens just after the soccer is over.

 

Just before the on ice warm ups.

 

Exactly. People get dressed, everyone is sitting calmly and 10 minutes before warm ups we usually turn off the music. At that point everyone is focused and serious. Then there is some pep talk and then we go out on the ice. I would say that it’s after the on ice warm ups, with eight minutes left, he comes in with some last words of instruction, who will be the starters and just some more pep talk.

 

We have all seen Bruce Boudreau getting mad at the team in the winter classic series. You must have experienced coaches getting really angry at you.

 

Yes, it happens but I think that the worst one is actually the one you are talking about. He did that a couple of times that year. If I’m going to be honest with you, I understand why he did that, we didn’t play good at the time, and I think he was in his full right to do so.

 

How common is it?

 

When we play poorly, it happens and sometimes when we play poorly we need a wake up call that makes you come alive and realize that enough is enough. Once you are at that stage, it’s easiest to use big letters and big words.

 

Have you gotten one from Barry Trotz yet?

 

We haven’t gotten a real Bruce Boudreau style of speech yet, but he wasn’t to happy with us after San Jose won a period 3-0. But it’s all part of the game.

 

Some coaches like to punish their players and have practices without having a puck ever touch the ice surface. The type of practice where you just wait for the players to pass out from exhaustion. I was at a practice like that when Peter Popovic played for the Rangers, and he told me afterwards that his legs were burning. I can imagine that you have had practices that you weren’t exactly thrilled to be part of.   

 

We had a practice like that when we lost 5-0 to Buffalo, that I believe was dead last at the time. this was also under Bruce and we were truly awful. I think we were suppose to have the day off but we had to practice instead. There were no pucks in sight and we skated for an hour straight, and it was no short distance either, it was the full length of the ice. So I understand Popovic, my legs were really burning after that.

Do you talk to each other at all during something like that?

 

All you can do is to put your head down and go, there’s no other way out. It’s the type of style they have over here.

 

At times it might even be a good thing.

 

Absolutely. I actually think we won big the next game. It’s a wake-up call.

 

A practice I thought was pretty funny that has nothing to do with skating was during my first year over here. I had a friend here that never been to practice before, and at the time we had Olie Kolzig as our goalie. He has quite the temper and I think it was during a warm up drill that someone shot a puck a little bit higher than he should have, up towards the head. Kolzig started by shooting pucks at him and after that he took his stick and just hit at the crossbar repeatedly. I think he broke it 10 times so at the end he was left with just a tiny little stump.

After practice my friend asked: is it always like this in the NHL?

I just laughed and said yes.

 

With you being new, you must have been a bit wowed yourself.

 

Yes,it was a little bit: what is happening now? But I had seen him for a few practices already so…You know to only take shots along the ice when he was in goal.

 

That players fight during practice happens too. But that’s maybe more of a preseason thing?

 

Now that’s true, but…

 

It’s when you have like 50 players on the ice and some of them are fighting for a contract.

 

Yes, it mostly happens in scrimmages. During the regular season I have maybe seen it happen twice, so it’s not very common. But it does happens of course, everyone wants to win, and practice is no exception. Sometimes you get pissed at someone but once you are off the ice it’s usually fine.

 

How aware are you about the situation for the players that are not getting a sweater every night? It’s not something you have to worry about but there are always a few players on every team that are in that situation.   

 

I think everyone is conscious about that. The feeling I get on how things work with Barry is that there is no guaranteed spots for anyone in the lineup, you have to earn it. Even if I have a spot in the lineup right now I think it’s helpful to constantly reset things. Say I had a good game, but the next day at practice, I’m back at zero again. I have to work hard so that I can perform in the next game. I think it’s so important to push yourself, that is something I always strive for.

 

How about pushing other people?

 

I think it’s important to talk, to always communicate with players. We have a great group of players. We know each other well, so we can talk about everything. Whenever there is someone that’s struggling with not making the team every night, or if someone is feeling down, I think we are good at talking to each other and being aware of what’s going on with people. It’s not just about me talking to someone, it’s that everyone on the team is doing it, and that everyone can talk to everyone. It’s very important.

 

With the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, sometimes I think that some of the rookies think that everything is so easy and that they are the center of the universe. How often do you come across kids that maybe need to be taken down a notch?

 

It happens, and I think that young players often…not that I’m that old…

 

But you are not that young either.

 

I’m in the middle.

 

Anyway, it feels like the players that get drafted get talked up by media, and things like that and they feel great hearing that, of course. It’s on the older players on the team to make sure that things are done the right way, that they get started at the bottom and work their way up. When I got over here as a nineteen year old, I remember Olie Kolzig and the other older players on the team were very firm in making sure that the unwritten rules for rookies were followed.

 

Like what?

 

Well, you are not lying on the massage table during your first year. You have to go outside the rink for that.

 

Pick up the pucks at practice.

 

Pick up pucks, always standing at the back of the food line, always making sure that everyone else has their plates full before you take food for yourself.

 

Did you mess up as a rookie and break any of the rules?

 

I’m not going to sit here and say that I always did the right thing as a rookie, but I was pretty shy back then and I mostly kept a pretty low profile. Also, I was really bad at English so maybe that’s another reason.

 

What’s the worst thing a highly drafted rookie can do wrong at training camp?

 

I know that a lot of players get irritated at the things I mentioned. Those are the things they have to think about. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to make an impression on the ice as young newcomer to the league. That’s something they really should do. Be bold enough to play their own game but when they are not on the ice, they can be little more low key.

 

If Ovechkin is banging his stick on the ice, demanding a pass maybe they should shoot themselves instead?

 

Then you should chip the puck down in the corner so that he has to skate for it.

 

The young players shouldn’t have too much respect for the star players either.  

 

Absolutely not. They should play their own game and do what they are good at and don’t be afraid to show themselves on the ice, things I think our rookie Andre Burakovsky has done a great job with. I had never seen him play before training camp. His playing style is great, he isn’t afraid to crash the net and his shot is good.

 

He hasn’t made any of the rookie mistakes?

 

No, he has handled himself perfectly. He is a great guy.

7 oktober 2014 5

 

It’s always fun to talk about what people are saying on the ice. Can you tell us about a time when you got mad at a referee and and he got mad at you?    

 

I don’t remember which year it was, but one of my teammates shot the puck around the boards and I was standing right beside the referee and the puck hit his skate so I didn’t get it. Instead the opposing team got hold of the puck and they attacked the other way, and then…

 

You are allowed to say bad words on this podcast.

 

I am allowed to do that? Than I shouted at him: what the fuck!

And then he skated after me and shouted: Fuck you Backstrom!

 

The referee said that?

 

The referee said that. Than I turned around and just skated away without saying anything. It was an experienced referee and…

 

The referees sure can talk for themselves

Yeah, I kind of like it. We shouted at each other for awhile and that was that. I like that style, it happened and then it’s over and that’s that.

 

Which NHL player runs his mouth the most?

 

I think it’s Steve Ott in Saint Louis. He talks a lot on the ice.

 

What about the Swedish players?

 

I think the Swedish players are generally pretty quiet on the ice. We usually just say hi when we meet on the ice.

 

Have you been angry enough to curse in Swedish to another Swede?

 

No, it has never happened, actually. Not that I can remember anyway.

 

How much talk is there?

That varies a lot from player to player. Some are very good at it and doing it gets them going, their adrenaline gets pumping when they talk, and they become better players by doing that.

 

I got a feeling that Ovechkin is talking a lot?

 

Yeah, it happens that he talks a little. Sometimes he has some words for the referees, too.

 

During a heated playoff game and you are skating by the other teams bench you get to hear a lot of things, right?

 

It depends a lot on how you are as a player, if you yourself are a talker, or not. If you have done something dirty, maybe, then you hear about it pretty fast. Especially during the playoffs when there’s so much to lose.

 

If you score a pretty goal on Henrik Lundqvist during the regular season you can send him a text about it, but during the playoffs that would never happen.

 

During the playoffs you are quiet. But after the series is over you can do it again. It’s just a thing you do, it’s nothing you think about.

 

How strong is the desire to win? I know you told me once that you were watching a final, or even some victory celebration and said that I want to be there. How often do you think about that on the way to practice?

 

It’s the only thing I want. It’s the only thing that motivates me. It’s the thing that makes me love coming to the rink every day, and it’s the reason I love this sport. That’s the thing you strive for. It’s a very long season and you need some luck to get there, but it’s the thing that motivates me. I want to win the Stanley Cup, that would be an enormous experience.

 

It’s hard to even imagine how it would be.

 

Yes.

 

Can you bear to watch it when it’s on TV?

 

I watch some of it.

 

But it’s not like you pull out a bowl of popcorn and sit down and watch an entire game?

 

No, not really.

 

The last game in the Kings-Rangers final for instance?

 

I watched one game in the series but I don’t remember which one it was.

 

Then you are a bit jealous?

 

Of course you are. You want to be there so badly yourself.

 

I think you told me once that it was hard for you to watch because you were so jealous and wanted to be there yourself.

 

Yes, that’s exactly how it is. You know that there are good teams in the final, so it’s there you want to be yourself to compete for the Stanley Cup. That’s the reason I play at least.

 

So how good are the Washington Capitals this season?

We are not ranked very high, and that’s perfect. I think we will surprise some people. We are keeping a low profile.

 

It’s might be easier said than done when you are as good as you are, and as spectacular as Ovechkin is. Maybe he learned some things from his gold at Worlds. He got to finish the season with a triumph even though the Olympics wasn’t much fun for him either.  

 

Exactly.

 

He is a fun player to watch and fun to play with although he could pass the puck some more.   

 

He is an incredible player and an amazing goal scorer. His release is incredible, there’s no one in the league that has a better wrist shot or one timer for that matter. And his one timer can come from anywhere, too. Oftentimes his shots are head high on the goalies and they are not easy to catch.
If you missed the first part of the conversation click here.

 

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Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part 1)

Expressen’s hockey reporter Magnus Nyström made a stop in Washington during his recent NHL trip. He sat down with Nicklas Bäckström and they recorded a 65 minute podcast together, on what I think was October 30, or thereabouts. The main subject of their conversation is what everyday life for a NHLer is really like. I divided the translation into two parts. My translation of the first part of the podcast is below. Click here for Part II. 

 

I’m sitting across from Nicklas Bäckström in a conference room in Washington’s practice facility that’s actually not located in Washington?  

 

No, it’s a bit from downtown Washington. All the players live here in Virginia. They built this place five or maybe six, seven years ago.

 

The location is a bit special, on the top of a shopping mall and parking garage.

 

Exactly. That’s what makes it unique and pretty cool that you drive to the top and park your car and then there’s two rinks here. It’s great actually.

 

The idea is to try to describe in detail what an everyday life is like for an NHL player with practices, traveling and games.  But first how do you feel now about what happened in Sochi with missing the final and everything, after having had some time to reflect on it?

 

It’s nothing to dwell on really. I know that me, myself, and Björn [Waldebäck, team doctor for Tre Kronor] made a mistake together, and at the same time, there was a lot of turbulence at the time, and you have to try to put it behind you and move on. That’s what it’s all about. Directly after the Olympics the league started up again, and then you just had to forget about it and move on, and now when some time has passed I don’t think a lot about it actually. I made a mistake and I’m taking responsibility for that. Now I’m just looking forward.

 

Playing with Tre Kronor in the future, like in the World Cup that might happen in 2016, is something you would still be interested in?  

 

Absolutely. I don’t have any negative feelings about the national team. I still think it’s incredibly fun to put on the Tre Kronor jersey. That’s big and I would be looking forward to that.

 

I’m fascinated by this, the first time we met after the Olympics, the ability you professional athletes have to put things behind you and move on. I think that we common people can learn from this attitude.

I mean, it’s easy to imagine that supporters, especially for club teams that can ruminate on adversities for years on end and think: What if we won that game? What if we made the playoffs? But you are sitting here now and when we talked previously and are talking about that final as something you have put behind you. You don’t go around being sad about missing the final, you just think about the next game.  

 

Yeah, but I think it’s important that you as a person, and especially for someone that’s a hockey player…eh, for example: If you had a bad game, for instance. You had a bad game and they show you video the next day, and you get told that you maybe have done something wrong in one of the video clips. That can happen in a everyday normal job too, that you maybe get yelled at by your boss. Instead of dwelling on why that happened, you have to try to learn from it and move on. I think that is a thing you have live with in hockey, you have to take some criticism and then you have to move on and learn from it. Maybe that’s the mentality you have to have in this sport.

It’s just not working, you can’t feel sorry for yourself for doing something wrong. You have to let it go, try to think positive and look forward. I think that’s a really important part of the sport.

 

How cool would it be to play in the World Cup?

That would be incredibly fun. It’s a classic thing.

 

It’s the same thing as the Canada Cup and would be played in August of 2016.

 

Yeah, it’s classic thing that was around when I grew up that just disappeared. That’s what it felt like at least. If they can find a good combination with the World Cup, Worlds and everything else, I think it can be great.

People get excited about the salaries you receive. I’m of the opinion that you deserves every penny you get, at least the best players do. You are the ones that make people buy tickets, buy merchandise and come to the games. You are a good investment for the clubs. It’s a little fascinating when you look at the numbers, do you know what you make per game?  

I have no idea.

You make over half a million per game and that’s pretty good.  

Yeah, it’s amazingly good.

It used to be that you got a check in a mailbox, maybe that has changed?

It used to be so earlier, that you got live checks. Now you still get checks but you can have them wired directly to your bank account if you want to.

It had to have been a bit bizarre in the old days, I mean you don’t want to lose a check like that.

Yes, it was, I almost did that actually.

You did?

Back when I first got over here when I was young and very dizzy, maybe.

 I have learned that you have to be on top of things like that. I put it in my car after practice one day, and then I found it a couple of weeks later under the car seat.

 

Wow, that made you a bit stressed out, I’d imagine.  

 

Yeah, it really was. But fortunately there were no harm done.

 

Do you ever reflect on the fact that you are making a lot of money. In Sweden it’s all very hush, hush when it comes to salaries, whereas over here everything is out in the open for everyone to read.

 

At the same time, I think it’s good that it’s public knowledge and that everyone knows what players make. And we do make a lot of money, there’s no reason to deny that and we have it really good. At the same time, there’s a lot more work for us than what people think, and how mentally demanding it is to play a long season. While we make a lot of money, it’s what the going market value is for the sport. That’s the lay of the land, that’s how society works. That’s nothing we are in control of, it’s the league that has set up the ground rules.

You have to work hard for the money.

Yes, I think so.  As I said earlier, we make a lot of money, we do, and that not something I’m trying to hide.

 

You train pretty much every day and have over 200 practices a year, about 240 practices per season. How much do you have time to learn things during practice with the game schedule you have? Describe the difference between practices here and back home, where there are fewer games.

I can walk you through a day, how it looks? We always starts with video at nine, and after that..

 

And that video session is about the game you played the night before?

 

Exactly, it’s from the previous game, who did things right and who did things wrong. What we can do better, stuff like that. We also have discussions in the room.

But it’s the whole team that looks at the clips?

Precisely.

So it can happen that the coach says: hello Backstrom, you should have backchecked there, in front of the whole group? 

 Exactly, and that’s something you just have to take and learn from and move on.

But there can be times when you aren’t exactly happy to hear that?

Of course you get more disappointed with yourself, like damn, why didn’t I do that. It’s just part of it.

So first a video session?

Always first video and then we have gym after that for about 30-45 minutes. Everyone has their own program that they go through. Some days we have upper body, some we have lower body: legs and things like that, other days we have like abdominal exercises.

But it’s lifting weights, and not being on a treadmill or sitting on an exercises bike?

No, it’s more weights and sometimes this year, when we have played back to backs, we have started doing yoga, actually, and I think that’s been pretty damn great.

 

Do you have the concentration you need for that?

Yeah, but, when you come in in the morning, and maybe are a bit tired after two days of games, it’s pretty sweet to relax and really stretch/do some strengthening exercises. It feels really, really good and it’s very relaxing. Just what the body needs sometimes.

And after the gym?

After the gym. we get ready, tape the sticks, yeah. You have about 30 minutes to put on the gear after that so you sit down at your stall and start to get changed.

Do you have any special routines? I guess there’s a difference between practices and games, too.  

Yeah, there’s a difference for me. At practice I don’t care at all, actually, about how the equipment is. I need a fresh taped stick, that’s it. I think I use one stick for the whole year.

Just one stick per year. Wow!

Yes, for practices. But for games it’s different.

How is it for games then?

I take a new one every game.

A new one very game?

I do actually.

So if you make the playoffs it’s 100 sticks per season.

Mmm, that sounds about right.

What do you do with all those sticks then? Some get busted of course.

Yes, some break.The club often takes the sticks and use them for charity and things like that, so they move on, in one way or the other.

But the lone practice stick must become a favorite.

Eh, that’s what’s strange, for games I’m a stickler for details and want it to be taped to perfection, but for practice, the stick I have, I use. Then I’m not such a perfectionist.

Pretty often when a player miss a play on the ice they look down at the stick as if it’s to blame, but it almost never is.

Yes, 99.9% of the time, it’s not the stick’s fault. So, it’s more a thing people get hung up on.

Nice to have someone to blame.

Mmm.

So onto skating sessions.

We have had a lot of different coaches these last few years. The practices have been very different depending on which coach we have at the time. Last year, we could have a 20 minute practice with no intensity whatsoever. Very easy, just feeling things out type of practices. This year, we have a 45 minutes to an hour long practice, with a pretty good intensity throughout, and much, more skating.

What a difference!

Yes. I don’t know how it will be further into the season when we play more games, but so far I like it. It’s a good tempo and we have a lot of play exercises. We try to replicate how it will be during games. If we, for example, play Edmonton tomorrow, we maybe go through how they like to play, and we work on things that will help us when they are out there. The whole practice is very tactical.

 

Different methods for different coaches, and Barry Trotz choose that way.

 

Mmm, precisely.

If you were to compare a practice here to how you did things back home in Sweden, what’s the biggest difference?

I would say that back when I played with Brynäs, there was a lot more focus on warm up than 2 on 1 drills.

 

Can you say that it’s more like things you do in the gym here, a little bit, more warm ups and things to get you going?

 

Exactly. And it’s more straight to working on breakout drills here. It’s the whole five man unit, the whole line that starts together at once. That’s where I think there are some differences, some more speed here and more skating here, too.

 

On the other hand, if you are going to practice things that are supposed to be game like, you have to do it with tempo, otherwise it’s pretty pointless, don’t you think.

 

Absolutely. That’s correct and especially if you consider that we play games every other day, we can’t be on the ice for two hours every day. So it’s important that we cut to the chase, and it’s something you get used to. I mean, throughout the camp we have practiced breakouts and 3 on 2’s all over the ice, so, it’s good, you learn from it.

 

After practice, you aren’t finished after you hit the showers. Like today, when I got here you had two meetings.

 

Exactly. First we had a meeting where we were going through Arlington laws with some policemen, so that we know what the rules are like about the cars here, you have to have the right stickers on your cars and on the license plates. So everyone has their things in order in case you get pulled over. Basically information that is good to have.

And then you had a hockey meeting with the coach.

Exactly.

Was the focus on the games that had been played, or for future games?

I would more say that it was more of a review on how we have been playing through the first eight games. What we can improve on and things like that.

And the feeling is that you are somewhere in between. You are not super excited but not angry either? It’s been a bit up and down?

Yes, you can say that. We have four wins and we are 4-2-2. I would say that we are ok with the results so far but not more than that.

Maybe I should say that you will play a few more games before this is published, so if you score four goals in game, and we don’t mention it, the listeners will know why. It’s not that we forgot that it happened.

That I would score four goals? That would probably never happen.

Don’t say that.

But we are ok with the result so far. I think we have something good going here, and I think we will be better and better going forward.

Every day when you are home in Washington there are some hours away from home that you spend preparing yourself at the practice facility, aren’t there?

I would say that I’m at the rink 4-5 hours every day. That includes everything: morning video session, gym and ice. After that you have meetings, stretching, taking care of the body, making sure that you have as much time as you need for the best recovery. Pretty often we have lunch too. We have breakfast in the morning and lunch at the practice rink. I think that it is very good that we put in the hours.

Is the lunch as good as back home at Gavlerinken in Gävle?

Gavlerinken does have really good food. It’s real good but it’s good here too, but a bit different, another type of food but still good.

You play a crazy amount of games. In November, for instance, you play 14 games in 30 days, and it’s not like you just play in the next town over either. Like when Brynäs plays a Stockholm team where it’s just to jump on the bus for a short trip.

It’s pretty hectic, especially when we have a lot of road games, too. It’s something that you might not understand if you haven’t played in the NHL and have had the opportunity to experience this life. We travel a lot, it’s games every other day and we always leave the day before the game.

So when you arrive it’s always the day before the game?

Yes, we usually get there in the afternoon so that we can eat a good dinner and sleep and then it’s practice in the morning, the game and after that we leave for the airport.

It has to have happened that you have woken up in the morning and had no idea where you were?

Yes, it has happened a couple of times, like, which hotel is this? Many times I have been mistaken on room numbers, too. Yeah, right, it was in the last hotel I had that number.

I remember when I did a story on Eric Lindros, once he said that the thing he did most, other than practices and play games, was to sleep. He tried to take a nap every day and sleep as much as possible. It’s all sleep, sleep, sleep. It’s not very glamorous but he said that he had to do it. Is that just him, or is it true for everyone?

Yeah, it’s especially like that on game days for me. Those days I sleep almost two hours every day after practice. If you don’t do that, you get too tired. It’s a plain and simple as that, especially when you play every other day, it has to be that way. When I don’t have a game, I try to hang out with the family. If I would nap on those days, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, so I try to stay awake until 10-10:30 at least.

That can’t be easy to do when you have a young child like you do. You have a girl that’s how old now?

She’s one year old.

Then you don’t always get to sleep as you want to. How is that going?

It’s going pretty good. Our daughter actually sleeps good at night, as well as during the days. It’s just great, it’s nice to be able to go home and think about something completely different than hockey. I need to step away from the game for a few hours and instead spend the time with my daughter and girlfriend. It means a lot to me.

Your daughter doesn’t care how the game ended.

Exactly. That’s what’s so great about it, that you can play with something else for awhile.

Do you ever pregame nap together?

We did that when she was younger but..

Now she won’t lay there for two hours?

No, she can’t really sleep with me anymore. She is sleeping in her own bed now.

Click here for Part II. 

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Burra discusses how awesome his new teammates are and wanting to move in with one of them.

Yesterday during Caps media day André Burakovsky chatted with sverigesradio.se.

Bäckis and Burra during Caps media day. (photo credit: SR)

Bäckis and Burra during Caps media day. (photo credit: SR)

“There’s a whole other level here compared to where I came from. It’s the best league in world. The quality of the players and passes are much higher. You really have to be on your toes in every drill, you can’t fall asleep on the job here.”

How do you think the team has welcomed you?

“They have been amazing. I think everyone has made me feel welcome. It’s a great bunch of guys and everyone is talking and joking around with me. It’s been great actually.”

How are you getting along with the other Swedish guys on the team?

“Really good. I have a close relationship with both Marcus [Johansson] and Nicklas. We talk with each other all the time and do things together. They are two great guys that are important for me to have here.”

You told me that you might move in with Nicklas Bäckström eventually?


“Yeah, we have talked about it, that I should move in with him and his family, Liza [Backström’s girlfriend] and Haley [Bäckström’s daughter]. I’m looking forward to it and think it can be really good for me to live there. Nicklas has been around the block a few times and knows how things work. By being close to him I can learn a lot. It’s going to be fantastic fun to maybe move in with them.”

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Nicklas Bäckström: ”Alex needs to do some of the dirty work”

Back in August, Nicklas Bäckström talked to Swedish journalist Linus Hugosson about the difference between his NHL coaches, the media scrutiny after Sochi, and Alexander Ovechkin’s style of play. Today, on October 1, the interview was  posted on viasatsport.se I have translated parts of the interview below. 

“Our game didn’t work at all last year,” Bäckström sighed. “The balance on the team was all wrong. We had an ok power play, that helped us win some games, but five on five wasn’t nearly good enough.”

Did you get run over, physically, by other teams?

 “No, it was more that other teams felt more skilled at playing the game than we did, but it was mostly in the defensive details things were lacking.”

 

 

Nicklas Bäckström and Linus Hugosson.

Nicklas Bäckström and Linus Hugosson. (photo credit: @linushugosson)

The defensive play have been a question mark for the Washington Capitals for year. During last season, Bäckström’s partner superstar Alexander Ovechkin was criticized, sometimes harshly, for his lack of commitment to backchecking.

“People know what he is good at. He is a goal scorer”, said Bäckström. ”But to go all the way, I think that every player on the team has to do the same things.”

Bäckström thinks that the criticism his Russian captain received was over the top, but he has also noted that on the most successful NHL teams, all players work equally hard.

“Alex also needs to do some of the hard and grueling dirty work. I think that he will come to realize that.”

[Ed note: The word by word translation of the sentence, “Alex måste också göra lite skitobb,” is “Alex also needs to do some of the shit work.” I translated it to: “Alex also needs to do some of the hard and grueling dirty work.”  Skitjobb can mean dirty work, as in going to tough areas on ice, playing physical and finish every check. But it can also mean being meticulous about the defensive details in the game, like backchecking and doing whatever your team needs you to do to win, even if it’s not really part of your job description.]

About Sochi.

“I have put it behind me and am trying to look forward instead. Of course It was really hard when it happened and for a few weeks after that. The media scrutiny was sick. Journalists came to my home and knocked on my door. I have no problem with answering questions, but when they are invading your home they are crossing a line.”

 ”I’m still incredibly disappointed that I didn’t get to play in the final, but at the same time, I have a responsibility as a player to do things correctly. There were a lot of different variables that played their part in this situation. I have to take my responsibility. Björn has to take his.”

Are you and Björn Waldebäck  (team doctor for Tre Kronor) friends?

“Yes, things are fine.”

In August Bäckström finally received his silver medal in Gävle before a Brynäs preseason game.

After several coaching changes in recent years, Bäckström will now be playing under one of the most respected coaches in the hockey world, Barry Trotz. He has made a name for himself by always having very stout defensive teams during his many years as the head coach for the Nashville Predators.

“Trotz will continue on with the same style that he had in Nashville, which I think will be great. We also have a bit more of an offensive punch than Predators have. For me personally, I don’t think there will be huge difference.”

One of Barry Trotz’s most important messages to his new players has been that the team has to stick to together. It’s the group, as a whole, that should succeed.

Is that what has been missing from the Capitals, to work together as a group?

“I know what you are getting at,” Bäckström chuckles. ”Of course it’s more fun when we win the games and play well, and there’s a lot of whining when we lose. But I would still say that the most important thing we have been missing is a some fighting spirit and some give a damn.”

“We have made some good additions. Now we can spread out the ice time more for our d-men, and Mike [Green] doesn’t have to play 35 minutes per game. I think Mike might find a way to get back to how he looked in his glory days again.”

 

”The last few years have been like a roller coaster ride. All of them have come in with their own philosophies. It worked ok with Bruce Boudreau, that first went with a hyper offensive style, and then changed things to a hyper defensive style. After that we had Dale Hunter, he was more ”old school”, and I thought that worked really great under him but then we ended up losing a in crushing manner to the Rangers in the playoffs.”

 

”You can tell by reading a little about what people are saying that the fans have become more restless. They are disappointed, and who can blame them? They question the management, but that only means that it is important for us as an organization to give back and and become the top team that I believe we can be.”

 

Personal goals for the season?

“No, I don’t have any other goals for me personally, I only have goals for the team, and that is to make the playoffs.”

Swedish thing you miss the most when you are in North America?

“Traditional Swedish food, like korvstroganoff and rice. You can make it over here too, but it’s never the same.”

What do you do on the airplane? 

“Play cards. We play Snarples. Snaples is mostly about luck so we usually take turns winning.”

What music would you play in the arena for warm ups, if you could makes the choice?

“I think I would pick Steve Angello’s new song, Wasted love.”

 

Toughest player to face?

Zdeno Chara is hard to go up against. The size, reach and strength.”

 

Which soccer team is in your heart?

”Arsenal!! They look damn fine this year. They will surprise a lot of people.”

 

The Stanley Cup winner in 2015 is?

“Washington Capitals. If we miss I’m going with Chicago or Los Angeles.”

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Christian Djoos to take part in Washington Capitals’ Rookie Camp

In May of this year, the Washington Capitals signed Christian Djoos, their seventh round pick from the 2012 draft, to a three-year entry-level contract. The undersized D-men is currently playing for Brynäs in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), a league that is set to start its season in little over a week. Brynäs plays their first game on September 11, so they will have to get through at least their first few games without one of their top two D-men and what is expected to be one of their most important PP weapons in Christian Djoos.

Christian Djoos playing with Brynäs. photo credit: Joel Marklund

Christian Djoos playing with Brynäs. photo credit: Joel Marklund

 

Over the weekend, Djoos told expressen.se that he is coming over to take part in the Washington Capitals rookie camp.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m leaving on September 8 to take part in the the rookie camp but after that I’m not sure how long I will stay for. But they want to take another look at me and they think that it’s good for my development,” Djoos said.

“I was there earlier this summer [for Washington Capitals development camp] and now they really want to see me again. I suppose that is proof that I performed well the last time I was over, so it’s going to be fun to get this opportunity.”
Brynäs is hoping that Djoos will still be loaned to them this season, and considering how well stocked the Capitals’ organization is on D at the moment, both in Washington and Hershey, it’s not unlikely that they will get their wish granted.

 

 

 Update, September 1 14.46 pm  
Djoos is also attending the Caps’ main camp according to gd.se. Brynäs’ GM Stefan Bengtzén estimates that Djoos will be gone for two weeks. ”We can only hope that he is good, but not too good,” Bengtzén told gd.se.
Last week I wrote about a another Caps prospect picked in the seventh round, Kevin Elgestål. Elgestål is also attending both the rookie and main camps this year.
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Better late than never, right? Nicklas Bäckström’s reaction after finally receiving his Olympic Medal.

Wednesday night before the start of the preseason game between Brynäs and Djurgården, Nicklas Bäckström finally received his Olympic Silver medal in his home town of Gävle. He received the medal from the chairman of the Swedish Hockey Federation, Christer Englund. The head coach for Tre Kronor, Pär Mårts, was also present on the ice, as was former Brynäs captain and fellow member of the Olympic silver winning team in Sochi, Jakob Silfverberg.

It wasn’t the biggest crowd in the building but they made up for it with cheers when Bäckström received the medal.

 

The chairman of the Swedish Hockey Federation, Christer Englund finally gives Nicklas Bäckström his Olympic Silver medal. photo credit: TT

The chairman of the Swedish Hockey Federation, Christer Englund finally gives Nicklas Bäckström his Olympic Silver medal. photo credit: TT

 

 

photo credit: TT

photo credit: TT

 

Pär Mårts, head coach of Tre Kronor, Nicklas Bäckström and Christer Englund. photo credit: TT

Pär Mårts, head coach of Tre Kronor, Nicklas Bäckström and Christer Englund. photo credit: TT

 

photo credit: TT

photo credit: TT

 

After the game Bäckström talked to Gefle Dagblad’s Magnus Hägerborn.

 “It feels good, it took awhile but better late than never, right?” Bäckström said.

With the medal in your hand, what does it mean for you?

“It feels good, actually. It feels like I was vindicated, and it feels good to finally have it.”

Was it important for you to get the medal?

“Yes, it was especially important before they decided that I would receive a medal. Everything was up in the air at that point, and I didn’t know what would happen. After they told me, it felt good and yeah, it was positive. It’s always…an Olympic medal in hockey isn’t a bad thing.”

Can you appreciate it more today then maybe you would have after the final?

“Yeah, I actually think so. If we had lost the final, and I would have been part of it, I’d probably be really disappointed when I got it. But now, half a year later, it feels like I appreciate it more. It means very much to me.”

Is it special for you to receive it here in Gävle?

“Yes, that’s great as always, since I grew up here and played hockey here both with the junior team and with A-laget (Brynäs SEL team). And it’s the town itself, too. This was really fun.”

What happens now?

“I’m going back on Monday and the camp starts on the 18th. That gives me some time to reset to another time zone and then it’s time to put the pedal to the metal.”

New coach and new general manager.

“Exactly, it’s gonna be fun. It brings some extra motivation and excitement. It feels good, we have had a lot of different coaches these last couple of years but at the same time, I hope we can keep this one and build from the ground up.”

 The allergies, any problems with that?

“Nothing at all. It’s not that time of year.”

TV   Uppskattar medaljen mer nu    arbetarbladet.se

Screenshot from watching the game.

Screenshot from watching the game.

Bäckström also talked to Hans Abrahamsson from Aftonbladet.

It’s six month later, how do you look back at everything that happened?

“I’m not really a person that dwells on things too long. Yeah, I did dwell on it for a few weeks but after that I let it go pretty fast. I couldn’t make it undone, it was what it was, so I had to look forward.”

Do you feel  like you could have done anything different?

“The only thing I feel now is that I could have not taken that damn pill.”

Do you feel disgust taking your allergy medicine now?

“No I don’t actually. It’s different over there.” (In North America).

[Bäckström talked to Stisse Åberg from gd.se about his allergy medicine: Åberg: “I asked, of course, if he is still taking his medicine and got the honest answer: “When I feel my allergies, I do.”]

How was those first few weeks after the Olympics, there must have been a tremendous pressure on you?

“Yes, it was, but at the same time: That’s how it works in today’s society. I know that I couldn’t have made anything different. I was open and honest about it from the get go. Then people will twist and turn things, that I’m weird for what I’m doing, and people will say things.”

Do you feel like you have been treated unfairly?

“No, I was the one the tested positive so it’s nothing strange about it.”

How has the contact been with Pär Mårts [Tre Kronor’s head coach]?

“No problems at all. I have talked some to him and there’s no weird feelings.”

How about the team doctor, Björn Waldebäck, have you talked to him too?

“Yes, I have talked a little bit with him after what happened. It’s unfortunate what has happened and the truth is out there. Personally I think that Björn is a kind and good guy. There’s absolutely no hard feelings from my side.”

[Ed. note: Some additional context on the Bäckström-Waldebäck relationship, Bäckström has had Waldebäck as the national team doctor on and off since he was a teenager. Waldebäc has been the doctor at hand when Bäckström had problems with his migraines while playing for the national team].

Tre Kronor, including Nicklas Bäckström and Björn Waldebäck,  celebrating their 2006 World Championship gold.

Tre Kronor, including Nicklas Bäckström and Björn Waldebäck, celebrating their 2006 World Championship Gold medal. 

Bäckström talked to Brynäs’s site the day before the ceremony.

Where will you hang the medal?

“I think I will hang it with my gold medal from the 2006  World Championship.”

How has your summer been?

“I had a great summer. It’s been a pretty long summer and time for a lot of preseason training. But it has gone well, we have worked hard and my body feels great. That’s a great feeling to have and important now when we are going back for another tough season.”

 

Johan Holmqvist and Nicklas Bäckström with their World Championship medals in 2006.

Johan Holmqvist and Nicklas Bäckström with their World Championship medals in 2006.

 

Update, August 29

Nicklas talked some more to Magnus Hägerborn last night. 

What are you going to do with your silver medal?

“I’m going to sleep with it tonight, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Bäckström has dabbled with CrossFit before but this summer he has gone all in on the CrossFit concept.

“I wanted to try something new and I have been really pleased with it. It’s a tough workout that leaves me with a taste of blood in my mouth. It’s going to be exciting and interesting to see what sort of result this type of training can do for my hockey game during the season.”

Nicklas’ brother, Kristoffer Bäckström, has made room for Nicklas on his team Oppala/Sätra’s skating sessions.

“He is some sort of a playing coach there at the moment, until they find someone new. It’s always better to train with a team, it gives more than to train on your own.”

 

 

 

 

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