Jordan Bondurant/NoVa Caps
The Washington Capitals will be without their longtime stalwart down the middle, Center Nicklas Backstrom, for a good chunk of the season (at least) after the former first-round pick underwent offseason hip surgery to correct an ailment that has plagued the franchise’s Assists leader for a number of years. During his first press conference of the season, Backstrom revealed the rewards outweighed the risks for him in having the procedure done.
While Backstrom returned to the Capitals’ lineup after missing the start of last season, his play and off-ice activities were a struggle.
“I’m pain free”, Backstrom said, “…Feeling good, I’m in the gym, working out, doing my rehab, so far so good…I’m doing things that I haven’t been doing for many years, so that’s a good start…It was a life-changer for me in daily life. Just to pick up socks, tie my shoes, play with my kids, I couldn’t really do that either, I think it helped me a lot functionally.”
Backstrom’s procedure was potentially a risky one. A return to hockey was in question at one stage, however, after consulting with other athletes who underwent the same procedure, Backstrom felt confident he needed to do it.
“I think I tried everything else to make it better. This was kind of like the last resort on unproven technology for sports. I had to do it, I had no other choice”, Backstrom admitted, “It’s either that or skate on one leg. I talked to [tennis star] Andy Murray, and [NBA player] Isaiah Thomas, a couple guys in the Swedish elite league…They were all positive about it.”
Backstrom is unlikely to return to the ice anytime soon, however he believes that the Caps will welcome him back to the ice at some point this season,
“Me personally, I’m very optimistic. And I’m very optimistic that I’m going to play before the season ends. I think that it’s going to be the body telling me and obviously a couple of other factors too; you got to have the doctors’ clearance and how we handle that too”, he admitted.
In January 2020, the Capitals re-signed Backstrom to a five-year contract, ensuring that he will end his career in the District. Backstrom negotiated the deal himself and admitted that finishing his career on his own accord was part of the decision to take the chance on the surgery. “I came back, it felt good for a couple games”, he said, “After a couple of years when you’ve gone through this, mentally it’s tough to live that way and play that way.”
“It was big, it was big actually. That’s what I always said to myself too, ‘you want to finish on your own terms, not because of an injury and you play through stuff you don’t want to’. I’m optimistic I get to do that now.”
Backstrom is mostly doing cardio at this stage and is working toward getting his leg to full strength.
By Michael Fleetwood