André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part II)

André Burakovsky is back home in Malmö, Sweden. Recently he sat down in the Burakovsky’s outdoor room with local blogger Johan Svensson, a.k.a. MrMadHawk, and had a lengthy chat. The video was  first published in Kvällsposten. If you missed part one of the conversation, here’s a link to part l.  My translation of part ll of the conversation is below.  

It’s tough to come down there, knowing that you have been scratched from the NHL. The only thing you can do at that point is to prove that you belong, and I did play really good down there.

The coach in Hershey gave me a lot of praise. I got right back up after two AHL games. It continued going so-so in the NHL. In Hershey I could relax but in the NHL I couldn’t relax and focus on playing my own game. It took some time to come back but eventually I did, I scored some more goals. It was going up and down like that for me all the time. I was down in Hershey again for maybe six games?

Burra and Liam O'Brien in Hershey.

Burra and Liam O’Brien in Hershey.

I absolutely didn’t want to do that but I just had to push through it. I talked a lot with Jacob de la Rose about his time in the AHL and he felt the same way, that it’s not where you want to be. So it wasn’t exactly fun but we talked a lot about it. [Ed.note: Burra and de la Rose played together on the Swedish junior national team. de la Rose was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2013, 11 picks behind Burra, and he also spent time both in the NHL and AHL this past season.]

Jacob de la Rose and André Burakovsky celbrating midsummer together in Leksand, Sweden.

Jacob de la Rose and André Burakovsky celbrating midsummer together in Leksand, Sweden.

I did actually play well down in Hershey and the next time I got called up, I continued to play good and then the playoffs started, and I think I had really, really good playoffs and Barry told me as much in the meetings after the season had ended, that he was really impressed by my play in the playoffs.

Do you have any lingering bitterness since you didn’t get go to the World Juniors and then still ended up not playing in the Winter Classic?

Of course I would have loved to play for Sweden at World Juniors, there’s no debating that. I love playing for my country, and it’s fun to get back to playing with everyone I know in my age group. It would also have been fun to compare yourself against the players you been playing with through the years to see how much I had developed compared to them. I wanted to go but at the same time I wanted to play in the Winter Classic and be part of the whole experience in Washington, since that is such an unique thing.

He [Trotz] told me the day before the game that I wouldn’t be on the ice for the Winter Classic and that obviously wasn’t fun at all. He said that he wanted to give the veteran players an opportunity to play since it was their last chance, and that I would get many more chances at playing in games like that, so that was one of the reasons. So it was just for me to hop on the bike and watch the game on TV. It was still fun to take warmups and to skate out in front of all those people. It was an experience.

You had a magic game against the Rangers in the playoffs.

Yeah, that was a pretty great night. It felt good against the Islanders too, when I got in after 2-3 games. I did well and created a lot on my own, made a lot of great passes, and Barry saw that, too, and he increased my ice time up to sixteen minutes. So I could tell he had faith in me.

About that game against the Rangers, I had felt good all series so far and I created lots of chances even before my first goal, but I couldn’t finish. But then I took the puck from Kreider along the boards, I cut to the middle of the ice and I had in the back of my head that in the pre-scouting they had said that the Rangers are leaving the middle of the ice open. I saw that Brouwer was open but I thought I’m free in the slot, I should just shoot and it went in.

It was pretty cool to score my first playoff goal in an important situation and to get to do it on Lunkan [Henrik Lundqvist] too, someone that I always looked up to him, too, since I was little and he played for Frölunda.

andre-burakovsky-goal

In the second period, Brouwer kicks the puck to me and I got an almost one on one with the goalie from the side. I just to cut to the inside while protecting the puck and get off a backhand shot. I hit it good and it goes post in. It was amazing to score a game winning goal in a playoff game.

andre-burakovsky-goal1 22

But then you lost the series against the Rangers.

We were a minute and a half from making it to the next round in game five, I think, so it was pretty rough. The margins are very slim. It stings especially because we had a real good team and things felt good against both the Islanders and the Rangers.

We really felt that we could have beaten any team. But the Rangers really came to play in those final two games and Lunkan was standing on his head. So did our goalie but Lunkan was great and it was hard to get anything past him.

It feels like the Caps really have a bright future ahead of them though.

Absolutely. We have many good players, our defenders look strong and John Carlson has really taken some enormously big steps forward. He is one of our leading players. Also, Brooks Orpik with all his experience and he has won everything you can win. He’s a real good player and a leader in the locker room, too, and that you can add Niskanen to that. I think we look real strong on defense.

On the forward side, we have four units that really work and our fourth line is great. I think it’s top five in the league as far as ranking fourth lines goes. They are really good at grinding down opposing teams. The first line with Ovechkin and Bäckström has always worked. Our power play is real solid so we really have a base that we can build on to get far in the NHL next season.

You are going into that important second year this upcoming season. How do you feel about that?

Now I know how things work after I have tried it out for a year, I can build on that. What’s more important is that I focus on my summer workouts. We are working hard at getting me to gain some weight so I get heavier and stronger. Then I need to deliver at camp as well.

We had a good talk about how Barry views my role on the team next year and I feel excited about going into my second year.

How big are you today?

Ehh?

I mean how much do you weigh?

I’m 187 centimeters tall, almost 188 (6’2″), and I weigh 92 kilos (203 lbs). So I’m a bit heavier than in my Malmö days. I’m a bit bigger and stronger. Everything is going up and that’s important.

 

That’s pretty tall and your dad isn’t exactly tall.

 

Yeah, he’s like 166 centimeters (5’5″) or something. He’s really short, I really have no idea where I got it from since no one in my family is especially tall. It looks like I got all of it.

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo Credit: Sydsvenskan

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo Credit: Sydsvenskan

 

How much do you think being tall works is an advantage in the NHL?   

 

I don’t know, If you look at someone like [Martin] St. Louis, he’s not tall and he’s still one of the best in the league. There’s a lot of small guys that still are very strong and that can hold you off, so I don’t know how much it really matters. But I like to be taller, I think it has some advantages to it. But the smaller players in the league are still very skilled and good.

 

You turned 20 this year so you have every opportunity to become a great NHL player.  How big do you think you can get in the NHL?

 

My goal is to have a long career in the NHL and play until you can’t play anymore. Well maybe not quite as long my dad but…

 

Is he finally done playing now?

 

I hope so but I’m not sure. [Ed.note: Robert Burakovsky is 48 years old and played for a local Malmö team called Limhamn last season and is very well traveled hockey player, to say the least]. But I’m hoping that I can play in the NHL until I’m 35 or 37. That’s the goal.

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo via blogg.vf.se

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo via blogg.vf.se

 

There’s a lot of wear and tear during a NHL season but I’m assuming that you stay at nice hotels and travel well.    

 

Yes, we always stay at the best hotels and have our own plane that only we use, and there are only first class seats on it. We travel well and the service is top-notch.

It’s amazing that you can have it that good but of course we play a lot of games, practice a lot and that does wear on your body. That’s why it’s important to really take care of your body and don’t cut corners.

It’s important to always stretch and to go in and receive treatments. I feel like I always have to sit in an ice bath after every practice and game, that way I keep my legs fresh for when it really matters. We have amazing doctors and masseurs that are around the team that help us 24/7 if needed. Recovery and getting help with recovery is really important, that you get the help you need.

[Ed.Note. It’s interesting to compare Burakovsky’s view on what type of help the team is providing for their players with what Evgeny Kuznetsov’ had to say on the subject two weeks ago to the Russian radio station 93.2 SportsFM, via RMNB: “Recovery process and medicine are at a different level, although it seems that is at a higher level in the KHL. In Russia you get a lot of help with recovery, but in the NHL you have to solve that problem by yourself. You have to find a masseur by yourself. We try to visit a sauna and a masseur after a game. That is very important after hard games. If you don’t pay enough attention to recovery, the fatigue will accumulate. You have to pay attention to your health. If you don’t take care of it yourself, nobody is going to help you.” (Click through to read all of Igor Kleyner’s excellent translation over at RMNB. )

When I first read Kuznetsov’s comment, I figured it had to do with him being a rookie. From a Nicklas Bäckström translation I did last year:

Q: “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…

Q: 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.
Q: Like what?
Well, you are not lying on the massage table during your first year. You have to go outside the rink for that.
Q: 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.”

It’s odd that two players in a similar situation can feel so differently about something, unless Kuznetsov was “playing it up” or maybe I should say ”playing it down” for a Russian media outlet.

Anyway, let’s get back to Burra in Malmö, shall we.]

Do you see the World Cup in 2016 as potential goal even though you just made your NHL debut?

Absolutely. I’m not satisfied by just making the NHL, I want to continue to take steps forward. I want to be a leading player in Washington, to be a top player there. I also want to make Tre Kronor and be a good, established player there.

Elias Lindholm and Filip Forsberg have already taken that step and played well with Tre Kronor at Worlds, so maybe it’s not all that far away?

Yeah, absolutely not. I got an email from Mårts [Pär Mårts, the Swedish National team coach] and they came over to watch us play. They showed some interest which is great, obviously. Foppa [Filip Forsberg] and Elias are one year older and they have made their debuts now and I’m hoping to do the same soon.

How good are the players born in 1995 compared to the players born in 1994? Both Jacob de la Rose and Lucas Wallmark [Wallmark was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round in 2014] have signed NHL contracts.

I think it’s particularly great that Wallmark has signed, he is an amazing player and one of the smartest players I have played with. It was so great when de la Rose got his shot to play with Montreal. I talked a lot with him during the season and we helped each other. I think the 1995 crop is good and the 1994 group are amazing with players such as Hampus Lindholm, Elias Lindholm and Forsberg.

Playing with the national team can be problematic for you since you are wearing number 65. How are you planning on fixing that?

I think Erik just has to move over…Haha, I’m only kidding. I’m the kid so I probably have to change my number.

You played with #18 with the national team before so maybe you can go back to that when Erik has stolen your number.

Yeah, I would consider wearing 18.

How long are you planning on staying home in Malmö?

I haven’t really decided. I know I’m going over to Washington in September but I’m not sure if it’s early in the month or in the middle. I also talked with Tom Wilson from the team about visiting with each other. I don’t know if I’m going over to see him or if we are taking a trip somewhere together. But me and Tom have plans to do things together.

Is he your best friend on the team?

Yeah, we live together, too. He is one year older than me so we get along great and hang out 24/7, so we are real good friends.

The other Swedes are a few years older than you?

I hang out with them all the time, too, and we get along great. The three of us have so much fun together. I lived with Bäckström for a while before I was supposed to find a place of my own. With Mackan and me, it’s almost like we are brothers. We make fun of each other all the time. It’s always a great time when the three of us get together.

So is it Bäckström that is the dad then?

Bäckström is the dad and Mackan is the big brother.

Tell me more about how it is to train in a group with other former Malmö players under the supervision of Bullen [Jonas Morin]?

The training is great but we are not really training much as a group. Some of them wanted to train with Morin because they saw how much progress I made training under him. We train separately for the most part, except for when we run uphill and when we do kickboxing.

When I work alone with Jonas, what’s so great about it is that he is up close and personal all the time so it’s really hard to make any mistakes, and when I do make mistakes he is there to correct any mistakes I do right away.

Are you planning on going on ice with Malmö [the hockey team] this year?

I hope so, that they will allow me to get on ice with them. It will help me to get ready for camp.

How important is it to be ready once the camp starts?

It’s important. You don’t want to come over unprepared and look like Bambi on ice. It always feels good to be prepared.

You realize that you can become a great Malmö athlete, with both Zlatan and Therese Sjögran retiring soon. It’s time for hockey to get a king in town after all those soccer players.

I definitely think so. Soccer has been dominating Malmö long enough so I think it’s time for hockey to take over. We have a lot of hockey players that already are very good but maybe don’t get as much attention as they deserve. I hope I can become a Malmö great.

Posts about André Burakovsky on the blog:

André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part I) 

Burra being Burra  

Burra in the beginning 

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André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part l )

André Burakovsky is back home in Malmö, Sweden. Recently he sat down and had a lengthy chat with local blogger Johan Svensson, a.k.a. MrMadHawk. The video was  first published in Kvällsposten. My translation of part l of the conversation is below.   

You have been home for a few weeks now. What have you been doing since you got back home?

Nothing special. After I had been home for three or four days I felt like I wanted to get going and start training with my trainer Jonas Morin. This will be the third year I’m working with him now, we work great together. I wanted to get going right away since I already had some days off back in Washington. Until now, we have been doing two sessions a day. We haven’t increased the hours but the intensity level and toughness. That’s about it, other than training, I have been playing some golf with friends and been hanging out with them and my family.

 

Tell me about going over and playing for the Erie Otters.

It was a tough to decide if I should play one more year in Malmö or go for a new challenge in Canada. It was a lot of back and forth but in conjunction with Washington we decided that it would be good for me to learn the Canadian/American way of playing. If I learned that I could make it to the NHL faster. It was a tough decision but I think it was the right one if you look at how fast I got to be playing in the NHL.

 

I got over to Erie and thought things felt good during the training camp, but even in the first few games I thought it was hard to fully get the hang of the new type of play. I didn’t think I played well at all during the first two games. I felt right away, what am I doing here?

I want to go back home.

I talked to my agent and we agreed  that I should just go on and that it’s tough in the beginning. In my third game things felt better and I scored my first goal, and in the fourth game I had five points. Overall I thought the season went great and I had some luck with the points. I had many points and learned the game quickly.

I took that with me into the next season and I played well at Washington’s camp, too. I did well there and had something like eight points in the three games at camp, and when the real camp got going I thought that went real well too.

The pre-season games with Washington were more of the same, things just kept on rolling. I had points in two of them, I think. I talked a lot to the coach and he told me that I had a shot at making the team. That gave me another spark, like, shit I’m close. I just left everything out there and went for it.

I got to play in the first game and and had some luck and scored in my second shift of the game. It was damn fun and to get to play in the first game too. To be part of the player introduction, that’s something I have never done before and it was the biggest experience of my life, to have 20,000 people standing up and roaring. It was very cool.

André Burakovsky in Malmö. Photo Credit: Johan Svensson.

André Burakovsky in Malmö. Photo Credit: Johan Svensson.

How was it to play with Connor McDavid?

He is an amazing hockey player. Every time we are out on a road trip everyone knows who he is.

When we go to a restaurant, the owner always knows who he is and wants his autograph. Even despite being that young, he is huge in Canada.

 

We played together for half the season and we played good together. Things in Erie worked like this: the top players were me, Connor McDavid, Connor Brown and Dane Fox. At first he wanted to play McDavid, Brown and Fox together because he felt that I could manage on my own, that I didn’t really need a super star to play with.

They played well for awhile but when things stopped working, me and McDavid were put together and we played really well. I think we had two points almost every game. We continued that way almost all the way to the playoffs but then things got changed around some.

It’s  really fun to play with him and we are great friends today, we talk a lot and I think that we learned a lot from each other. We pushed each other, we stayed on after practices. We know that we were the top players on the team and we always tried to be better than the other guy, but in a positive way since we also tried to help each other. We stayed after practice and tried to improve our shot and our technique. We pushed each other and I thought it was good for us both to be in the same culture.

 

Do you think that after your career is over you will say that McDavid is the best player you have played with?

 

I really hope so. He’s an amazing player, humble and a good person. He was one of my best friends in Erie that I hung out with in my spare time too. I hope that he will become that best hockey player in the world one day. Of course the goal is that I will become that but I really hope that he goes all the way.

 

You had what most be described as a magical debut with Washington.

 

I could hardly believe it was true that I was about to play my first NHL game. It’s been a dream of mine since I learned how to walk. Once I got there and I was nervous. I couldn’t relax and was shaking a bit in locker room before the game and in warmups. But once the puck was dropped I think things felt good.

 

In my first shift I took the puck from an opponent in the corner in our D-zone. Eller was on me, I played past him, got tripped and drew a penalty. I passed to Marcus Johansson or Troy Brouwer and got the puck back again and I shot the puck on goal. He made the save but it was a real good start.

After the game my dad told me that after that shift, I knew you were feeling it. In my second shift, I was chasing Subban behind the net, I stressed him out a bit and he just got rid of the puck and it hit Brouwer’s stick, he got the puck to me and I one-timed  it and it goes in. I didn’t know what to do with myself, or what really happened. It’s one of the greatest things I ever experienced to score my first NHL goal.

 

It was just a few years ago you got moved up from the junior team to the men’s team in Sweden, and now you are talking about taking the puck from Subban.

I remember the coach of the men’s team calling me while I was with the under 20 team, and I couldn’t believe that when it happened either. Shit, I’m getting to play with the A-team! But now it has gone so little time, maybe two years since that time. Time has just been flying by and things have been moving up for me all the time and I hope it continues that way.

But things didn’t go smoothly for you all the time, you were sent down to the AHL. Did they have a clear plan for you through all that?

Yes, absolutely. I had great communication with the coach, Barry Trotz. He told me that for the first year as a rookie it’s all about learning. He’s been working in the league for many years, so for me it was all about listening to him.

He’s a really wise man that is always right. He often told me to focus on learning when I wasn’t dressed for the game. That I should see it as an opportunity to study Bäckström and observe the way he played. And that I would see things in another perspective from the stands than from the bench, to see things from above. And I really did learn a lot from that.

The first 10-15 games went great for me and he often told me that during the first games in the NHL you are so jacked up, going on adrenaline and are just so happy to be there. But then when you realize that you are trying to take someone else’s spot, and wanting to be there all the time, it’s then things might slow down.

And that did happen to me to some degree, after the first 10-15 games, things did start to go downhill. I didn’t recognize myself, I wasn’t as quick on my skates as I usually am. I lost the puck and my puck technique was off. I messed up at the wrong spots on the ice, at places where you are not allowed to do that, and we got punished for it.

But throughout all that I still had a good communication with Trotz. He told me those things were normal for a first year player and that I should focus on how you are supposed to play and try to fix your mistakes. After I haven’t played for five games, he told me that I would be sent down to Hershey to get some playing time.

Here’s part two.

Posts about André Burakovsky on the blog

André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part ll )

Burra Being Burra

Burra in the Beginning 

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Nicklas Bäckström talks for the first time about his hip injury: “I’ve been in pain since November”

As I wrote about a little more than two weeks ago, Nicklas Bäckström was scheduled for and underwent hip surgery. He has now recovered well enough from the surgery to fly home to Sweden for the summer. He spoke about his hip injury and the long rehab that lies ahead for the first time when he sat down with Erik Illerhag from his hometown paper Gefle Dagblad earlier this week, although the article wasn’t published until Sunday. My translation is below.

He’s walking with a slight limp over the parking lot in front of the arena that is named after him, NickBack Arena. After just recently returning from the US, the first thing on the docket is to award a scholarship to Fredrik Wieser and Amanda Wärjö from his old school Sofiedal. (Ed.Note: Bäckström has given out scholarships in his name to two talented young athletes per year since 2010.)

 

The question is what’s bigger, to be rewarded for their school work and success in their sport, or to meet Nicklas Bäckström?

Fredrik Wieser, a 15 year old that plays for Valbo, Bäckström’s old club, wiggles around a bit and looks to be taken by the moment. Amanda Wärsjö, a 16 year old floor hockey player, says that she at least knows who Bäckis is.

Nicklas Bäckström with scholarship recipients Fredrik Wieser and Amanda Wärjö. Photo Credit: Erik Illerhag, gd.se.

Nicklas Bäckström with scholarship recipients Fredrik Wieser and Amanda Wärjö. Photo Credit: Erik Illerhag, gd.se.

They talk for awhile and after that we sit down on the stairs to the arena for a chat. Nicklas Bäckström can look back at another NHL season and it is easy to forget that he is still just 27 years old when you look at everything he has done so far.

This winter he passed the 500 point mark and was the NHL assist leader. He can now say that he is the all time assist leader for the Washington Capitals.

“Time flies. I’ve been over there for eight seasons now and it feels like I arrived yesterday. It’s fun to be part of the team’s history, but to me it’s just more of a bonus. I haven’t exactly been skating around thinking ”now I will break this record”. As long as I haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet I can’t be satisfied,” he says calmly.

Is it frustrating?

“Yes, it’s a little bit frustrating. It’s an incredibly tough road to get there, but with a little bit of luck it can be done. The margins are so small and there’s a bigger difference between the teams in Sweden than there is in the NHL. The last couple of years, Chicago and LA have been dominant. They have a hell of a mentality in their teams and they have tons of experience. I think that really makes a big difference.”

How often do you think about the Stanley Cup?

“I’m not thinking about it every day but there is just one goal in my head and that’s winning the Stanley Cup.”

 

This year Washington reached the second round before they were bounced in game seven, and that is despite leading the series 3-1 at one point.

 

“It was really rough. You were left with a feeling of complete emptiness and just couldn’t believe what had happened. We thought we had a team that could go far and we were in a good position to win game five in OT. But then we lost the game, and after that we lost two more.”

 

It was the third time in four years that Washington lost in a game seven to the Rangers, and the team has strangely enough not made it past the second round of the playoffs in the Alexander Ovechkin/Nicklas Bäckström era.

Their contracts last to 2020 and 2021, respectively, and they will most likely continue to produce points for many more years. But Barry Trotz, the coach that took over this past year, will probably try to find a steady third player for their line.

“It really varied over the year. I think we had nine different players next to us this season. But I don’t think it’s that easy for the people that get paired with us either. Maybe next year they will have to flip a coin to decide who will get to play there,” Bäckis said, laughing.

Trotz did tighten up the defense, and that makes Nicklas Bäckström hopeful.

“We have had issues with our defense before and we have been pretty easy to read as a team because of that. But this year it was much improved.”

As per usual this time of year things are pretty turbulent.

“I think it’s about 10 players that are without a contract at the moment, so it’s hard to say how things will look next season. That’s the hard part with having a cap, not being able to fit everyone under the ceiling.”

Nicklas Bäckström played all 82 regular season games, but was still forced to undergo hip surgery after the season ended, a procedure that took place two weeks ago. As usual in the hockey world, they try to keep injuries and surgeries a secret, but it’s clear that Bäckström’s summer will be filled with rehab training in the gym.

“I’ve been in pain since sometime in November so we had to fix it. It’s hard to say how long it will take for me to come back. It varies from individual to individual, but five months is a time frame I have heard. Right now my main focus is to get back the mobility in my hip again.”

You have been able to avoid injuries for the most part so far in your career, right?

“Yes, it’s been alright, I think. I have a pretty kind style of playing and spend a lot time in middle of the ice as a center.”

 

Nicklas Bäckström will be spending the summer in his house just outside of Gävle, with girlfriend Liza and their one year and eight months old daughter Haley.

Does she understand what her dad is doing?

“Yes, she says hockey to daddy so at least she understands that I play hockey. She is usually just around for the afternoon games, since the other games end too late for her.”

 

When Nicklas Bäckström goes back to the team in September, Brynäs D-man Christian Djoos will probably already be in town trying to make the team. Bäckis thinks and hopes that he will succeed.

Posts about Nicklas Bäckström on the blog

Report: Nicklas Bäckström to have hip surgery this summer?

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

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

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

Publicerat i news, Nyheter | Märkt , , , , , | 4 kommentarer

Report: Nicklas Bäckström to have hip surgery this summer? Update: Bäckström underwent arthroscopic hip surgery on Wednesday

On Tuesday, May 26th, Nicklas Bäckström played golf at Congressional country club in Bethesda, Maryland. One of the other golfers he played with that day was Chris Cassaday. Cassady goes by @ccassaday on Instagram. He posted a picture of himself and Bäckström on the golf course. In conversation with another Instagram user, Cassaday said that Bäckström told him he would be having hip surgery this summer (see screencaps below.).

26 Maj 2015 5

ccassaday85 på Instagram   Played golf with Nicklas Backstrom today. I played god awful. But he s a stand up dude and was awesome to hang out with. Thanks nick.  caps  dcsports

27 Maj 2015

Of course it is possible that there were a misunderstanding in the communication between Cassaday and Bäckström. I posted this report so that it can be confirmed or debunked by people with better access to inside information from the Washington Capitals organization. Personally I would be thrilled to learn that there was a misunderstanding and that actually it is someone’s aunt getting a hip replacement.

In his exit interview, Bäckström was asked if he was banged up at all in the playoffs (at 2:54 in this video), a question that he answered with a no. I suppose that even if he is in fact having hip surgery, that is not technically a lie.

I thought this Mike Heika article about the Dallas Stars being more proactive about dealing with hip problems was really interesting. Heika describes how hard it is to know if a player should just rest and hope that the hip problems goes away, or if it is better to have preventive surgery.

Several Stars players have had surgery this past year, none more prominent than Art Ross trophy winner Jamie Benn. He is expected to need 4-5 months to recover from double hip surgery. Every recovery is different, of course, but that 4-6 months range is what google says is the standard recovery time.

Updated, May 28th, 5.30 CET 

Alex Prewitt on Twitter   Nicklas Backstrom had arthroscopic hip surgery yesterday afternoon  per the Capitals.

Alex Prewitt on Twitter   A statement from the team says   we are confident that Nick will be completely healthy prior to the start of the 2015 16 regular season.

Read more about the surgery in Alex Prewitt’s blog post on the subject in the Washington Post.

On a personal note, this is always very much appreciated when you are a little Swedish Fish in a big North American pond.

Alex Prewitt on Twitter   Should note that the first mention of this came from  MalinElis  who reported an Instagram post from someone who golfed with Backstrom.

Posts about Nicklas Bäckström on the blog 

Nicklas Bäckström talks for the first time about his hip injury:  “I’ve been in pain since November”

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

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

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

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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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