Calgary Flames‘ Mikael Backlund has turned into one of the NHL’s top two-way centres. The 28-year-old, fresh off his best season in which he accounted for 53 points while checking the best middlemen night after night, is once again showing why he deserves to be mentioned among those in the Selke Trophy race.
In fact, against the Pittsburgh Penguins last week, Backlund was matched up against the best player in the sport, Sidney Crosby and more than held his own.
But after practice on Saturday, the 2007 first-round pick showed what a real winner looks like.
After a 45-minute skate, the two young sons of Tara Roe made their way on to the ice to spend some time with the entire Flames team. The 34-year-old Roe was one of four Canadians who lost their lives on October 1 in the tragic and senseless mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Following practice, the boys, their father, and Tara’s sister and parents made there way into the dressing room — the boys were both wearing Backlund jerseys. Mikael went around the dressing room to ensure the young brothers had their jerseys signed by every one of his teammates. Backlund, along with the help of the players, coaches and staff through the guidance of the incredible Flames Foundation, tried to provide some smiles, memories and at least a brief distraction from what I can only imagine to be unbearable grief.
As many of you know, Backlund’s own NHL journey hasn’t always been easy. There have been many ups and downs, intense criticism and great disappointment due to injuries and yet, when it matters most he has never wavered.
I first interviewed Backlund during the 2009 WHL Final when he was a member of the Kelowna Rockets and I have had the privilege of witnessing the majority of his NHL career. Whether he was playing at his best or going through a rough night on the ice, not once has he ever treated me or anyone else around him with anything but respect and kindness. He is always ready with a hello, regardless if he’s in an arena, on an airplane or in a hotel lobby.
In the media, we more often than not celebrate those for what they do on the ice, but Backlund needs to be recognized for the person he is, for the way he makes a true difference in other peoples’ lives and to our community.
On Saturday, Mikael Backlund was at his best by being one thing: himself.