Photo: Jimmy Wixton/SportsBladet
Nicklas Backstrom told reporters during his exit interview a few days ago that he was heading to Germany to represent his home country of Sweden in the World Hockey Championships. Among his teammates on his country’s team is William Nylander, the son of Backstrom’s former mentor and teammate in Washington, Michael Nylander. And the duo share more than just ice time.
When Backstrom first arrived in the District before the 2007-08 NHL season, he was not yet 20-years old and had no place to live. Fortunately for Backstrom, fellow Swede Michael Nylander and his wife, Camilla, gave Backstrom a place to stay while he found a place of his own. Having played in the NHL for over a decade at the time, Nylander took the young Backstrom under his wing and, as both were centers, Backstrom learned more than just the culture of America from the elder Nylander.
When Backstrom first moved in with the Nylanders, William was 11-years old and his brother Alexander (a highly-prized Buffalo Sabres prospect) only nine. Both played hockey and were often found shooting pucks on the Kettler Capitals Iceplex rinks before practices or even hanging out in the locker room after practices. Even after finding his own place, Backstrom would be a frequent guest for dinners and would play ping-pong with the Nylander kids in the family’s basement.
Now, just 10 years later, Backstrom and William Nylander are linemates for Team Sweden in the World Hockey Championships. They were influential in the team’s 4-2 win over Denmark, teaming up for a beautiful give-and-go, that put Sweden up 3-0 at the time. Backstrom finished with one goal and one assist, while Nylander recorded two goals and one assist.
— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) May 14, 2017
While there’s no doubt Backstrom has plenty of years in his career at the age of 29, there has to be some nostalgia from playing with Nylander, who he himself somewhat mentored just a decade ago. One is a superstar in the NHL and the other a budding one. Time sure flies.
By Michael Fleetwood