After eleven years in the NHL, the dream became reality when Nicklas Bäckström won the Stanley Cup with Washington Capitals. “The first feeling was relief, then it was just joy. I went around and just laughed on the ice and when I met my family – then the tears came.”
The following is an interview with Nicklas Backstrom, held in his hometown of Gavle, Sweden, on the eve of his day with the Stanley Cup. You can access the original interview by Magnus Nystrom for Expressen.se, right here.
The season could have ended for Nicklas Bäckström in the second round, in the fifth game, against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I took a shot from Justin Schultz on my hand. I immediately felt it was strange. It is still visible,” says Nicklas, as he puts his right hand on the table.
“The knot is still strange. It broke down and then it became a fracture on the finger. I got double fractures.”
Washington won the game and took a 3-2 Series lead, as the Capitals now had the chance to knock out Pittsburgh. Bäckström was on the trip to Pittsburgh for Game 6, completely set to play.
“I received treatment all the time and it didn’t hurt so much. We thought the worst would pass over a few days. But in Pittsburgh, I was forced to realize that it was so swollen that I could not get my hand in the glove.
How did it feel?
“I had definitely not played a regular series of games after that hit. But now it was the playoffs, and I wanted to play. Instead, I sat in the locker room with our video coach and watched the game on TV.
What a nightmare – how was that?
“I was nervous as hell. I felt quite sick to sit there, but when we won it was a big relief.
On to Tampa
In the semifinal against Tampa Bay, Washington went up 2-0 in the series, without Bäckström, who returned with special protection around his hand in Game 3. After Tampa won three straight games, Washington finished with two straight wins.
Nicklas Bäckström – with double fractures – assisted with two goals and scored in the decisive game at home.
“The doctors were a little worried about getting a bang on my hand. Then it would definitely have been surgery and been impossible to play. I just thought I wanted to play. I have dreamed of the Stanley Cup since I came to the United States eleven years ago and we have had a hard time getting past the second round of all years.
Did you avoid certain situations on the ice?
“I was not so freaking hot around the piles, and dropped pucks where I did not usually drop them. We tried syringes, but it was not good, because then I lost too much touch in my finger. I had a worse shot, even though I did not shoot often. But it always felt better and better.
After the victory against Pittsburgh, did you feel unbeatable?
“We on the team never thought forward. Nobody said anything close to: “think if we are champions”. We felt at the end of the season when we won 18 out of last 20 that we were good. But in previous years we have really talked about it: “Now it’s the playoffs, now it’s all about the playoffs.” This year we just drove on as usual. We didn’t get worried when we lost.
On being down in playoff series
In the first round of the playoffs, Washington was down 0-2 against Columbus. Then they were down 2-3 against Tampa and 0-1 in the final against Vegas.
“It was always good atmosphere on the team. The last two games against Tampa may be the best we have done. I think that’s what we did wrong in previous playoffs, we’ve been too worried.
Did you have extra self-confidence after finally knocking out Pittsburgh and Tampa?
“Yes, we had. We had our worst game in the first round, but then we won four straight games. But there were small margins all the time. We led another game 4-3 when Braden Holtby made a mad save with the club. But we were patient. We played our game, everyone bought into the system and we stood up for each other. Everybody was really involved and contributed and I think that’s a nice feeling.
When did you think: “Now we become champion”?
“When it was 0.6 seconds left of the last game. Me and Alexander Ovechkin stood next to each other on the bench and took off our helmets. Then he said, “I’ll take the Cup first and then I’ll give it to you”. It was such relief and joy, and he and I just shouted at each other: “At last we have done it!”. I’m just getting goofy when I’m sitting here telling me about it.
Important Support from the Family
Then it became a multi-day party and many joyful tears. So many that five-year-old Haley Bäckström looked wonderfully at Nicklas and asked:
“Why are you crying daddy?”
“Because I’m so very, very happy …”
In the stands in Vegas was the whole Bäckström family: Dad Anders, Mom Catrin, Nickla’s wife Liza and their children Haley and Vince, Big Brother Kristoffer and his fellow wife Frida.
“It was great to have them all there. I knew exactly where they were in the arena, so when I got the Cup, I lifted it towards them. It was a very powerful feeling. Then everyone got out on the ice and we took pictures and Vince (son) got to sit in the Cup. He who always points when he sees hockey players on television and says, “daddy”. He believes everyone who plays hockey is “daddy”.
Brother Kristoffer also tells of the celebration.
“It was great that we experienced this together. The first thing Nicklas said when we met him on the ice was: “Hey, how nice is that?” Then we had some fun for Mom. She usually is the one who hears the most in the stands. After the final, she was completely stupid, someone tried to interview her, she did not get a word out.”
Nicklas has repeatedly praised his parents.
“As they have set up for me in all years. Shooted and picked up late evenings. They are really involved in this, I would have never been here without them.”
On Alex Ovechkin
He praises all his team mates, including the Swedes Christian Djoos and Andre Burakovsky.
Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas have played together for years.
“It was nice for us to show everyone that said Washington can never win, that they were wrong. I’m very impressed by “Ovies” playoffs. He is playing another way now, but also put down the puck and go and change and his relaxing style throughout the playoffs, how he never stressed, it meant a lot to everyone on the team.
A weekend with the Cup
This weekend the Stanley Cup is in Gävle. On Saturday there is a party in Gavelrinken with Nicklas and Christian Djoos and on Sunday Bäckström and the Cup are at home in Valbo where Bäckström took his first skateboard as a small kid.
“It has been special to come home this summer and realize how many here are happy for me. It has been a very fun summer. And the parade in Washington was one of the coolest things I’ve been to. 700,000 people celebrated us in a city that is quite good to have paradise in, haha.
But now, when you’ve reached Mount Everest and stood with the flag on top?
“Now I want to get there again. Now I know how it feels.”
By Magnus Nystrom