The worst part of being traded Monday is that Niklas Backstrom had so much to do to get his life in order, he scrapped his chance of going to the Bruce Springsteen concert.
“I’ll have plenty of chance in Europe this summer,” Backstrom said.
I talked to Backstrom by phone today shortly after he arrived in Boston to meet his new team, the Calgary Flames.
The winningest goalie in Wild history said his emotions are hard to explain.
“You’re really excited about a new chance, a new opportunity, but at some point last night, it’s still pretty emotional,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time with this group, a lot of great people there. It’s a big change, but I think it was time for it and I’m grateful for that chance.
“But it was a little more emotional last night and even today than I thought. But to get this chance, I’m really thankful. It’s mixed emotions, but it’s time.”
If you didn’t read my previous blog, I reported that the trade nearly blew up because it took so long for Backstrom to waive his no-trade clause in writing. Give that a read if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Backstrom gave me his version.
Sunday night after the Wild played the Florida Panthers, he was informed the Calgary Flames were interested. When he woke up Monday, he didn’t hear anything from anybody, so his wife, Heidi, gets to choose what they do on days off.
“Not my choice. My wife picks it, and she wants to go to the Albertville outlets to shop,” Backstrom said, laughing.
While his wife shopped, he played in the park with his kids when he got a call and verbally waived his no-trade. GM Chuck Fletcher told me today the Wild and Flames literally called NHL Central Registry at 1:59 p.m. – a minute before the deadline.
The problem is they needed the no-trade document waiver in writing and Backstrom was in Albertville! He gathered his kids, then had to find his wife, which took longer than he thought. Finally, he got in the car, drove back to Edina, printed the form, signed it and faxed it. The way I understand it, the form was submitted right when the call began. If the form wasn’t there, there’s a chance the league would have given a no-go.
Luckily for everybody involved, the call was literally the last in line.
If you read the previous blog, you know a few teammates lauded Backstrom’s work ethic and professionalism during trying circumstances this season.
“I made it clear early to myself that whatever happens, you have to do it for your teammates,” Backstrom said. “It’s easier to do everything you can and fail than if you don’t do anything and fail. That’d be tough to live with.
“I still feel l want to play and compete. I still feel I’m ready to do the work on and off the ice that I need to do to be at the level I know I can play at. Teammates, staff, all these guys, they were out there helping me, Mase, Bruno and Darby, they made a big difference.
“It didn’t end the best way, but I don’t think I could ever have hard feelings toward an organization who gave me a chance to come to this league. I was 28 years old and for sure dreaming about the NHL. But at that age, it’s usually more a dream than reality.
“But they believed in me – Doug [Risebrough] and Chuck [Fletcher] and [Jacques] Lemaire and Mase. Even this year, for sure you want to play, and it’s not fun when you’re not playing, but everyone in the locker room jumped to make me feel like I’m a big part of the team.
“The last six months, there’s a lot of mental struggle. But I look back, 95 percent of the time I enjoyed and I had fun coming to the rink. Just being part of the State of Hockey, the fans, playing in that building, is a privilege, it’s something special.”
He said you’d “like to have the memory of winning the Cup, and we didn’t do it in my time. Hopefully they can do it in the future.”
Backstrom goes from a three-goalie situation where he never played to a three-goalie situation where he’s expected to play some, maybe even getting to make a final Xcel Energy Center appearance in one of two Calgary visits.
“It’d be special to come back there and play one more time, but that’s still far ahead,” Backstrom said.
It was bizarre walking in the locker room today and not seeing his stall, peculiar covering a Wild skate and not seeing three goalies.
After 10 years covering Backstrom, I wish him luck. I still remember my first sitdown with him during his second training camp. We went to lunch at the International Market Square and he had me howling.
One of the secret funny guys.
Few things were funnier in my tenure covering this team than the back and forths he used to have with Derek Boogaard.
I’ll be on KFAN at 5:55 p.m. and at Tom Reid’s in a few doing my podcast. In fact, I’m better get out of dodge quickly.