Nicklas Bäckström on the Olympics and His New Life as a Dad

Today published a video interview with Nicklas Bäckström and Calle Johanssson,  conducted by Mittmedia’s Markus Bäckström on January 14th. My translation of the interview is below. 

What do you think about Washington Capitals season so far?

Backstrom: It has actually been a bit up and down, but we are in a playoff spot right now and hopefully we can stay there. We have had some rough stretches but hopefully we will play better in the second part of the season that starts now.

What do you think about your own game?

It’s been ok some of the time. I think we have played well on the power play, but the five on five play leaves something to be desired. Overall I’ve been ok but I can be a bit better, I think.

That’s downplaying it a bit. You are currently leading the team in scoring and are at ninth place in the league in scoring.

What can I say, we have had a good power play and half the points have come from that. I think that we can all play better at five on five, and that we can play much better as a team.

I talked to some of the reporters that watch you play every day and they think that you have had a fantastic season, and that it’s maybe your best season ever. What do you think about that?

Then I say that NHL is all about the stats. That’s the thing they look at, and of course the points are there but I think the play in itself, I think there are things that can be better.

Photo credit: Joel Marklund

Photo credit: Joel Marklund

How are you feeling about the Olympics?

It’s going to be so much fun and I’m super excited about the Olympics and the last time around in Vancouver was an amazing experience, even though we didn’t get past the quarterfinal. It’s such a huge event and I’m looking forward to it, we have a good team, and I think we will take some teams by surprise.

There has been some difference in opinion in Sweden among the experts about your participation in Sochi. Some have felt that you shouldn’t be on the team because you are not good enough to play on one of the first two lines. Kristian Huselius is one of the experts that thinks that you shouldn’t be one of the  two topline centers on the team.  What do think about that?  

I don’t really have much to say about it. He has his opinions and all people are entitled to their own opinions. I can’t really say much about it, it’s his opinion, what he thinks and feels about Tre Kronor’s Olympic team. It’s just fine by me, I honestly don’t care about that, I have other more important things to think about than what he thinks.

You don’t think that it’s a strange thing to say since you are the scoring leader among Swedish players ?

That’s not up to me to answer that. That’s up to other people.

Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Calle Johansson

What do you have to say about Nicklas Bäckström’s season with the Capitals?

Calle Johansson: Unbelievably good. I don’t think a lot of people understands how much work Nicklas is doing every night. Everybody is just looking at the points he creates. He does score a lot, but he also takes on an incredibly big responsibility defensively. And he plays with players that maybe have freer roles, and it’s up to Nicklas to take on that extra defensive responsibility, and he is doing it superbly well.

Of course I knew before I got here that he was an incredible hockey player, but I’m almost more impressed now when I see him every day.

At home in Sweden all the talk is about Henrik Zetterberg, the Sedins, Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson and not very much about Nicklas.

Yes, that’s right. I think that’s typically Swedish, isn’t it?

Some guys get more attention than others, and once that started, that’s how it continues to be. Once it gets decided who is deserving of the press and the attention no one wants to break the pattern, and that’s a pity.

But the people that know hockey, know how good Nicklas is. And fortunately he isn’t exactly a person that seeks the attention either. But on the other hand, it would be nice if the average Joe understood how good he really is.

Do you think he is forgotten?

Yes, I  think you can say that. He is definitely underappreciated, except for the people that see him every day, those who play with him and against him. All the teams over here know how good he is. He isn’t underappreciated by them, it’s more the general public that does that.

Some experts, like Kristian Huselius, didn’t think that Nicklas should be included on the Olympic team.

Didn’t he think that Bäckström should be included? I don’t know if you could be called an “expert” if you don’t think that Nicklas Bäckström should be included on the Olympic team. That’s pretty much what I can say about that.

You think that he’s wrong?

Yes, from my perspective that’s wrong but I can’t decide what other people should think but I think it’s completely wrong. I don’t think Kristian really understands how good Nicklas is. He isn’t watching him every day.  I actually don’t think there’s any coach in any national team that wouldn’t include Nicklas on their roster.

How important do you think Nicklas will be for Tre Kronor in Sochi?

He is one of the top players on the team so he will be really important for the team. The thing that is so good about him is that…I can compare him to Zetterberg, that’s a great idea to compare the two because they are both two-way players. As I’ve been saying, Nicklas isn’t just a one-way player, he can take a defensive responsibility. He kills penalties  and he can play against the other team’s best players. He is a divinely gifted power play player. He can do it all, it must be a coach’s dream to have a guy like that on his team.

After watching all the Swedish NHL players every day, what do you think Sweden’s chances are in Sochi?

I think the Swedish team looks great. I’m not saying that they will win the gold for sure but I think that they have as good as a chance as the Canadian team, or Russia if people think that’s the team that should win, or the Americans. I definitely think that they are candidates to win the gold.

Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Nicklas Bäckström

You became a dad in October, how is that going?

Bäckström: It’s been very exciting, incredibly fun and a bit of an adjustment. I live another life now but it’s been incredible. Both my girlfriend and daughter feel great, and she is growing every day. It’s an amazing thing to follow your own child develop.

Do you get any sleep at night?

Yes, I do. My girlfriend is nice enough to get up at night so I can sleep, especially on nights before games, when you need the extra rest.

And when do you take care of her?

Whenever I’m home I try to take care of everything so she can take some time off. I think we complete each other quite well, actually.

I saw on twitter that Adam Oates said that you should name your kid Adam?

He did? I think that was a joke. Everyone knows that you can’t name a girl Adam.

What did you name her?


Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Have you and Alexander Ovechkin talked a lot about the Olympics?

We haven’t talked much about it, yet. Though we have talked about Sochi the town, that they are building a lot of new buildings there, and about the security in Sochi and Russia. That’s about it. We haven’t started with the trash talk just yet, we have to focus on Washington first, but I’m sure it will come. It’s fun to play against your teammates.

You see a lot of Alexander Ovechkin jerseys around town.  He is what you call a franchise player over here and you are more in the shadows. How do you feel about that?

Ah, I view that as a good thing. I mean, his personality and everything he has done on the ice, few people have done what he has done. He is the face of Washington and he is the one the sells the most.

I don’t have a problem with being in the background, that’s a positive thing for me. I’m more that type of person that just comes to work and does my work, and I always try to give it 100%.  I honestly don’t need a lot of attention. I mean I don’t really mind talking to the media, for instance, but I don’t feel bad if I’m not in demand either.

That’s the type of person I am, and always have been, and will continue to be.

Do you think you get as much credit as you deserve considering the amount of points you have put up over here over the years? Back at home in Sweden all the talk is about Zetterberg, Sedins and Henrik Lundqvist.  

Um, that’s a hard question. Actually, I doesn’t really matter to me.

Why do you think it is like that, though?

I don’t know.  Maybe because they have been around longer. I really don’t know. It’s a hard question to answer. But they do deserve it. They are that good. They are really good hockey players.

But don’t you deserve that too?

I’m not the right person to answer that question. I mean I always try to give it my all and do the best I can. It  doesn’t matter if I get credit or not. The people I want to get credit from, I do get credit from anyway, and that’s what’s important  to me.

 Do you think that Tre Kronor can take home the gold in Sochi?

 I think we have a good chance at the gold. Russia and Canada are the favorites. But as always, five or six teams teams will have a chance to win it all.

Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Photo Credit: Joel Marklund

Do you dare come back to Washington if you won the gold on Ovechkin’s home turf?

Yes, I would. The only thing that can’t happen is that he wins the gold.

That would be hard for you?

 Yeah, that would be really hard for me. But we will take it from him.

Who is the biggest star in Sochi?

Maybe Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin.

Which Swedes do you think will medal in Sochi?  

Tre Kronor with one, and two medals for the skiers.

What sports besides hockey do you want to watch in Sochi?

Depending on what’s possible to get to with my schedule, I want to watch cross country skiing since I’ve never been to that type of competition before.

What’s your favorite Olympic memory?

My best Olympic memory is from Vancouver even though we didn’t make it past the quarterfinal. The whole thing, to be part of the Olympics, is amazing. It was a big moment in my life.

Which headline would you like to read about yourself after the Olympics?

“Bäckström wins the final in sudden death.”

On the pressure to win the Stanley Cup and past playoff failures  

It’s not like we talk in the room about the fact that we haven’t won in 40 years. It’s more that we come in every year and really try to win. We really want to win a Cup for the city.

I’m not sure it’s [the playoff failures] in our heads. But yes, maybe a little. But at the same time we don’t think about it a lot [during the season]. It’s more in the summer after the season is over that it wears on you.

I completely understand the fans’ frustration. As a player you always try to win and we know damn well that we are nothing without the fans. Of course you want to give back to the people that are paying a lot of money to come to the games.

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Gabriel Landeskog on his Second Season in the NHL

The young captain of the Colorado Avalanche, Gabriel Landeskog, is currently playing in the World Championships in his hometown of Stockholm. Landeskog has scored three goals in six games played so far.

Hockeysverige’s editor in chief Uffe Bodin interviewed Landeskog on video a few days ago. A translation of the interview is found below. 

About being the youngest captain for a struggling team:

”I learned a lot about myself and the team, and about leadership. When things are so up and down, it’s not easy to know how to deal with them as a captain. There were a lot of team meetings. A lot to learn about how to act like a captain, what to say and how to deal with some situations.  How to deal with the coach and how to be the go-between between the coach and the team. That is something you learn with time and I think I made a lot of progress in that regard in just 3-4 months time. I’m already looking forward to next year and hopefully I will learn just as much next year.”

About if things got messy for the team, with Jiggy’s comments and Ryan O’Reilly’s contract situation: 
”No, I wouldn’t say that, but when Jiggy (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) said that in the media after one of the games at the end, of course things got a bit messy. We had some team meetings to sort things out.”
”We on the team didn’t think the O’Reilly situation was that big of a deal. Everyone came to the training camp and nobody there talked about it. Of course we wanted him back as soon as possible but we realized the magnitude of the situation and that we had to play and win games without him.”

”It felt good to get him back, and by the time he got back, we had won as many games as we had lost. We had put ourselves in a decent situation by the time he got back. I don’t think the O’Reilly situation affected us as much as the fact that we were so much up and down during the season. That was the thing that made it a rough season.”

About his concussion:
”It was my first concussion and it was hard to get back after that. I went two weeks without doing anything at all. You can’t send messages to your parents, girlfriend or your friends or whomever.
Your eyes are light sensitive, and you get annoyed at every little thing. I mean if there was no milk in the fridge you get irritated about that. Really, it’s everything, that you can’t do anything, you can’t read books and you can’t watch TV, so it was really frustrating. Since I never been through it before I didn’t know how to handle it.
If you look at the physical side of things, you went two weeks without doing anything. If you look at how it is in the summer you never go more than 3-4 weeks without doing anything in the summer, and that’s the off season.
But this was during the season and I had to go two weeks without any symptoms. It was hard to get back into game shape under those circumstances, but I think I did a pretty good job with it.
I missed playing the game a lot of course. But it’s inevitable that after missing two weeks like that a lot of things are a little bit off and the timing isn’t what it should be. You have to play catch up and that is time you don’t have in a shortened season.”

Photo:  Michael Martin (

Photo: Michael Martin (
About having a kid named after him:
”Yeah, during warm-ups I saw a sign in the crowd that said that someone named their kid after me. It’s not a long time ago that I was a kid that looked up to NHL players, and now they name their kids after me. It’s pretty unreal. Things like that make you realize that you are in a special situation, that you have the ability to affect people’s lives like that. It’s pretty cool actually.”
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Another Golf post? Another Golf post

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

Photo Credit: MPC Stjärngolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lockout from a Swedish Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bäckström on the potential lockout:

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

Bäckström on dreams of the Stanley Cup:

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

Bäckström on Tre Kronor:

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

Bäckström on Filip Forsberg :

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

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Nicklas Bäckström and the 59 Meatballs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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