When you get home for the summer, the main thing is to spend time with family and friends that you don’t get the opportunity to see during the season. Training takes a lot of time as well. I’m trying to enjoy the Swedish summer, not that it’s easy on a day like this when the weather is bad. But at least we had some nice days earlier in the summer. I like to sit down for a cozy barbecue dinner and just hang out and talk with family and friends. I have a daughter now and it’s great to watch her grow and develop every day.
How much do you train during the summer? Could you take a couple of weeks off after the season had ended?
I usually take about 14 days off, but since I underwent surgery after the season ended, I had to rest a bit longer than that this year. In a normal year I like to get things going pretty soon after the season has ended. The training gets more ramped up as the further into the summer you get, and later on I go on ice as well. Personally I like to start my training for the upcoming season almost right away after the previous season has ended.
What type of injury did you have that required surgery?
It was a hip injury that I had the surgery on and I felt it was time to do something about it. I can’t say that I’ve been tortured by it, what can I say? I have felt it during the season and wanted to get rid of it.
So you had it for the entire year?
Since sometime in November. I didn’t really feel it when I was playing because during games you have other things to think about (laughs).
It sure sounds serious. You obviously don’t undergo surgery for kicks and giggles.
It’s been a cause for concern and I wanted to take care of it, so that I did.
So you are not fully recovered yet then?
No, it’s going to take some more time. We will just have to wait and see how things go exactly, but of course I’m hoping that I will be ready for the start of the season.
When you are home in Gävle, like you are right now, are you getting a lot of attention from people wanting to get autographs?
Heh. It’s pretty calm on that front. I think people in Gävle are pretty used to me being here so it’s not really a thing, and I’m maybe not the guy that’s out on the town very much either, so..
What’s your hometown now, as you see it?
My hometown will always be Gävle, and Valbo since that’s where I’m from. But at the same time, I spend most of my time in Washington and that’s where I live for at least 10 months of the year. In the beginning when I got over there it didn’t feel like home but you grow into it gradually, and I have to see it as my home now. Gävle will always be home for me since that’s where I spend my summers and that’s where I’m from and where I grow up.
You are good at hockey but where you good at any other sports growing up before you chose to focus on hockey?
I played a lot of floor hockey, soccer, golf and tennis. I was pretty decent at floor hockey and golf. I don’t know, but I think I have some ball sense, so maybe that’s why. I like to do a other sports than just hockey, it’s fun.
Do you think you could have been as good as you are at hockey in any other sport?
I don’t know, it’s hard to say but if I were to start over from scratch I would want to see how good I could get at golf.
It’s not too late. You can pick it up after your hockey career is over.
Yeah, you never know. Maybe I could try to qualify for the senior tour (laughs).
How old were you when you started focus only on hockey?
I think I was fourteen. That’s when I moved from Valbo to Brynäs and that’s when I decided that I would do hockey full time, in the summers as well.
Nowadays kids might have to start focusing only on hockey as early as seven to nine years old. What do you think about that?
I think It’s deplorable. I think it’s good that they can try out different types of sports so they figure out what feels good. Besides, who can really look at a nine year old kid and see that he will be good at seventeen or eighteen?
No one can do that. I personally believe that you should try out as many sports as you can and want so that you can figure out what you like. Also, it’s good that they get to go outside and get moving. It’s great.
You really like to workout and practice.
Absolutely. I always had in the back of my head that the way you practice is the way you play, and I think there is a lot to that. Maybe things are a little different when we have a lot of games in a short time frame. Maybe then you have to hold back on the training and practice and focus more on recovery. But when you do have a couple of days between games, I think it’s important to have good practices and by practices I mean on ice sessions.
With the amount of games you play how much time do you really have to practice?
Yes, sometimes it’s at least four games a week. At the beginning of the season, the practices tend to run longer. During the season, especially at the end, they tend to get shorter. It gets more important to think about getting enough recovery time in since the body gets beaten down playing that many games.
It’s a delicate balance that you have to strike, really. All coaches are different and they also have to talk to the players to figure out where the players are at and how much treatment they need. There’s a lot of things to consider. A normal practice usually lasts 45-60 minutes. At the end of the season it’s more like 30 minutes.
Can the play suffer and decline when the practice time gets cut in the second half of the season?
Yes and no. For some players, they feel better when they can go out on the ice and feel the puck so they don’t lose their feeling. Other players need to rest to be able to focus, so that they can perform at their top level. I would say that it varies a lot from individual to individual.
Which type are you?
I’m both. Sometimes when things aren’t quite working, I like to go on ice to try to get the feeling back. But other times when your body feels totally spent, it might be better to rest.
Next season will be your ninth season in the NHL. Is it pretty much the same or have a lot of things changed in the league?
I would say that the league is faster now. I thought the tempo was high when I first got over there but it’s even faster now, especially in the playoffs. That’s when you really see how much it changes from the regular season to the playoffs. The speed in the playoffs is so damn fast.
Also, when I first came over, there were a lot of fighters in the league. Every team used to have one player that was a fighter and that’s not the case any more. Maybe you can say that it’s a more skilled league now.
Is it more fun to play in the league now when the game is played with more speed?
Yes, it’s awesome. That we play on a smaller ice surface makes it go even faster, that in turn makes it an even bigger challenge, and I really enjoy that. I think it’s more fun for the fans, too.
Is it more fun to play on the smaller rink than on the European sized rink?
Absolutely. Smaller ice surface, greater challenge and more entertainment for the fans. You can suddenly get a scoring chance from nowhere, one little mistake is all it takes.
Since the European ice surfaces are bigger, the distance to the goals is bigger too. You don’t get the dangerous chances as you get on the smaller ice. So I personally think that it’s much more fun to play on the smaller rink.
I would have thought that for a player like you, that sees the ice as well as you do, would have preferred to play on the bigger ice sheet, you would have more ice to “show off” on.
Yeah, but it’s more ice to cover as well (laughs).
In part two of the conversion Bäckström talks about having a leadership role on the team, who his best friend on the team is, and who’s the best player he has played with, among other things.
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