“I Haven’t Been This Nervous Before A Game I’ll Be Honest About That”: Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson Share The Range of Emotions Felt in Return to the Lineup

John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

The long-awaited return of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson to the Washington Capitals’ lineup was celebrated by the Capital One Arena crowd upon the two stars taking the ice for warmups ahead of their eventual 1-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although the energy created by the excitement of their insertion into the lineup was palpable and shared by both men, the emotions ranged wide for both No. 19 and No. 43.

“It’s funny”, Backstrom said after the game, “My son [Vince] actually woke me up this morning he poked me on the back and he said ‘daddy, are you playing game tonight’, I said yeah I’m going to play, and he goes ‘are you nervous?’, and I’m like, yeah buddy I’m nervous.” Backstrom, whose family attended the game, was playing his first game since undergoing hip surgery during the offseason. “That was special too, they’re watching warmups, they’re watching the game, so I’m gonna go up and say hi before they leave.”

Wilson, meanwhile, played his first game since tearing his ACL during the team’s first round 2022 Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers last spring. Like Backstrom, the former first-round pick underwent surgery to repair his ligament, and had slowly made progress in his recovery to return tonight.

“It was a really cool experience”, reflected Wilson, who had a career-high season offensively, in 2021-22, “You can’t ever take it for granted, playing in the NHL. The fans, you know the roar when Nick and I came out, it’s a pretty special feeling. Just a thank you to everyone for all their support, from the city to the fans, we definitely felt it.”

Both players were understandably cautious heading into the first true test for their new and improved knee and hip.

“Yeah, I was”, Backstrom responded when asked if he had any nerves before taking the ice, “I get a little nervous every game, but this was obviously something different. I haven’t been this nervous before a game, I’ll be honest about that.”

“Actually the very first shift, I literally just hit my leg”, said Wilson, “And I was like okay I guess it held up, so we can move on from there. Like I said, you put in the work and everyone tells you you’re good to know but it’s different testing at the NHL level. Happy to get that one out of the way. I felt a little bit better than I thought out there, but it’s definitely overwhelming when you get out there, the music and the fans, and it’s a fast game so you just have to take it in stride and do your best.”

Both Backstrom and Wilson have remarked on the benefit of being able to go through their respective recoveries and rehabilitations together, feeding off the determination of the other in the weight room and on the ice. However, as both expressed, game action is a different feeling altogether.

“I thought so, but it didn’t”, Backstrom said with a smile, in reference to Wilson also returning to the lineup.

The Caps are next in action on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. Michael joined the NoVa Caps team in 2015, and is most proud of the growth of the NoVa Caps community in that time. An avid photographer, Michael resides in VA.
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4 Responses to “I Haven’t Been This Nervous Before A Game I’ll Be Honest About That”: Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson Share The Range of Emotions Felt in Return to the Lineup

  1. zidane says:

    You can’t ever take it for granted

  2. hockeydruid says:

    I was pleased and surprised that Backy skated so well. Glad that both men were held under 15 minutes. The real test will come against Philly on Wed and Sat in back to back games; sort of; and against a HC who has usually made things hard for the Caps, Tortorella, or tried to. From experience it really helps to have someone going through recovery with you rather than by yourself. Also glad to see that they get several days off between games this week. Big test comes on the 16th and 17th with true back-to-back games and one is away and the other home. Good luck guys!!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I was too. I guess the team has biometric data from the player tracking system they can compare to from previous seasons. I would love to see that, but HEPPA and all…

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