The 2022 Winter Olympics are now just six months away. And with NHL players potentially set to participate for the first time since the Sochi games in 2014, Washington Capitals’ forward Nicklas Backstrom sees the upcoming games as an opportunity for redemption.
He is believed by most to be the best center on Tre Kronor’s (Team Sweden) projected roster. Former Detroit Red Wing Niklas Kronwall, an advisor to Tre Kronor for the Olympics, echos the same belief, describing Backstrom’s level of knowledge of hockey in an astute way.
“Look at him on the ice. He’s like a locomotive pulling the whole team. He makes his teammates better. [He] keeps track of what everyone is doing on the ice and where everyone is. There are few players like Backstrom. A top player that I think every team in the Olympics wants on their team,” said Kronwall in a recent interview with Sportsbpadet.
Tre Kronor had a strong team in Sochi in 2014. But before the tournament, Henrik Sedin was scratched and during the tournament, Henrik Zetterberg was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. Nicklas Backstrom was the only remaining star center.
Tre Kronor made it to the final, but then came the biggest blow to the team. Backstrom would be suspended for testing too high for levels of pseudoephedrine, resulting in a game suspension. Canada would go on to win the final against the depleted Swedish squad, 3-0.
“What happened was very unfortunate. But before that, it was so much fun at the Olympics. You play matches and between them and the training you hang out with other athletes and talk. It becomes like a Swedish camp. Incredible experience that I want to be a part of again,” said Backstrom in an interview with Sportsbpadet.
The NHL has set a 2021-22 regular season schedule that will allow for their players to participate in the Olympics in February. However, the league has yet to officially state if players will be allowed to attend. A final decision by the league is due any day.
“I believe and hope that it will happen. It’s so special. Would be weird if they removed the Olympics for us hockey players. A fun tournament and a memory for life,” said Backstrom.
“Sweden as a team has the strength to come together as a group. And we get along better than other teams. Canada is always the favorite, but we can beat the disadvantage, it suits us perfectly.”
Before the Olympics, it’s a return to the NHL that Backstrom is focused on. This past spring the Capitals were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
“It was a unique season and we as a team can not be happy because we went out in the first round. But it was a strange season with constant covid issues and players jumping in and out. But that was the same for many teams, we can not be happy with what we did,” said Backstrom.
“The evenness of the whole team, especially in the playoffs. We met a good team in the playoffs, Boston, but we did not click in any of the games. We have to be smoother and get that feeling we had in 2018 when we became a team. Then you have to be a little lucky too and not get injured.”
Backstrom and the Capitals open their 2021-22 season on Wednesday, October 13, when they host the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena.
By Jon Sorensen