You’re in for a treat. During the Olympic break, Swedish television’s Viasat ran a feature on Washington Capitals center (and gold-medal-game pariah) Nicklas Backstrom. Reporter Frida Nordstrand visited Backstrom’s hometown of Valbo to explore the roots of Washington’s quietest superstar. Nordstrand pored through old photos, talked to Nicky’s family and friends, and revealed more of Backstrom’s personality than we’ve ever seen before.
In the 13-minute clip we learn that Nick used to sleep in his skates, how he came about that trademark humility, and what it’s like to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Also, his hometown named a rink after him. It’s called Nickback. Yeah. Nickback.
Translated by F.O.T.B. Magnus Cadelin, we’ve got the video and full transcript below.
Nicklas Backstrom: Gavle and Valbo is my home. I mean, I like it very much in Washington, but Gavle is always gonna be my home. This is where I grew up, this is where I started off my career.
Frida Nordstrand, narrator and reporter: It’s a huge contrast between his life in Washington and his life in Valbo, just outside of Gavle, where he grew up. This is the place where he put his first pair of skates on and the dream was born. A dream that never was about playing in the NHL or becoming the best player in the world, but just to always play. It’s as simple as he never wanted to take of those skates…
Nicklas Backstrom: In this field, our neighbor, who was so incredibly nice, let us make ice. So we skated here every winter. When we weren’t on the rink over there, we skated here at home.
Frida Nordstrand: You were one of those kids who wouldn’t come inside for dinner?
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah, you might say that… And if I didn’t win the game we were playing, I’d be sitting outside sulking for a bit.
Anders Backstrom, Nicklas’ father: He took over a pair of skates from his older brother, who in his turn got them from an older cousin. I remember, he put them on inside, walked around on the floor inside, took a couple of steps outside and when night came, he refused to take the skates off. So we let him go to bed with his skates on. Those were his favorite things in the world.
Anders Backstrom: This is where you took your first strides. You walked out, right onto the asphalt. In summertime. You walked around with them on here, you remember?
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah, I actually remember that. I remember that I slept with them on too.
Anders Backstrom: When he was three years old, he could skate fully on his own. Like it was the most natural thing in the world. The older he got, he watched older players carefully. When he went to Brynas games, he watched their skates and gloves and such things. He had that extra thing, but we couldn’t know how far it would take him.
Frida Nordstrand: His dad Anders played ten seasons with Brynas during the 1980’s and was a big role model in hockey, just like his older brother Kristoffer, while mother Catrin took another role becoming that sort of “counterweight” you always need in life.
Nicklas Backstrom: My mom has always supported me, even though she didn’t. She never talked about hockey. She always talked about other things in life. She was always really good in putting my mind on other things than hockey. I could always talk about everything else in life with her. She’s really good that way. Here’s the ice barn.
Frida Nordstrand: Nickback… tell us.
Nicklas Backstrom: Heh… Ehm… Well… Yeah. They asked me about a year ago. Well, they asked if I wanted my name on the arena. And (laughs). I was really glad they asked me. And then it just happened.
Frida Nordstrand: It had a pretty boring name before, right?
Nicklas Backstrom: (Laughs) Yeah, it needed an update.
Frida Nordstrand: What was it, “Building & Saw Arena”?
Nicklas Backstrom: “Drill & Pincers Arena”. I think there’s been a lot of different names [on the arena]. They’ve changed it a couple of times. But I hope this one will stick.
Nicklas Backstrom: It feels like yesterday… I know how many hours I’ve spent here. Every day after school, went straight here. Grabbed something to eat over there, at the restaurant, then straight to practice and if we had spare time we’d skate with friends after practice. We were here almost all the time.
Frida Nordstrand: The Stanley Cup is going to Valbo?
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah! I’m gonna put the Cup at center ice and it’s gonna be crowded in the stands.
Frida Nordstrand: That’s not gonna be a whole lot of people [who fit inside]!
Nicklas Backstrom: Nah, everyone who wants to be here is welcome and I’d love to share the joy with everyone from around here. I really do.
Frida Nordstrand: I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be there!
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah! Good! (laughs)
Frida Nordstrand: But seriously, to be from a place like this and a number of years later to have the arena were you grew up wearing your name.
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah, that’s pretty unreal when you think about it. But. For me it feels like it’s all happened so fast since I was 16 and made my Elitseries debut and up until now. It’s now, I’m turning 26 this year, that I’ve started to think about it, like “Shit. Shit, this is fun, really fun”. This barn and the sports arena [behind him] was my second home when I lived here in Valbo.
Frida Nordstrand: You’ve done a few hours here.
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah, you might say that. You can even ask the people working inside (laughs).
Frida Nordstrand: Is it hard to enjoy this journey, while you’re taking it? Like you’re saying, it’s all happens so fast.
Nicklas Backstrom: No. It’s not hard to enjoy it; I enjoy every second of it. I’m doing something I really love and am able to support my family doing it. It’s amazingly fun! It’s something I think about quite often, I keep telling myself how lucky I am.
Frida Nordstrand: But is it the same Nicklas who steps inside this arena, as it was when you were a kid?
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah. In my opinion, the only difference is that I was maybe a bit more shy back then. These days I’m actually able to have a conversation with people (laughs).
Frida Nordstrand: It’s easy to forget that there’s a person behind every performance, and behind that person there’s a base who made that story possible. Friends, teammates, and family.
Kristoffer Backstrom, Nicklas’ older brother: Dad made the ice back home in the yard, we always played there. It was always me and my friends and Nicklas always wanted to play with us. He always played with us, a bit older guys, competing. Maybe he wasn’t good enough back then, but I think he learned a lot from that, he always needed to fight a bit harder and had to show what he was made of. And he really hates losing! It’s a strong word, but that’s the way it is. Every time we do something, if we play golf, there’s a lot of prestige, everything is a competition. That’s the way Nicklas is.
Frida Nordstrand: Are you that way too?
Kristoffer Backstrom: I was probably worse when I was younger, absolutely, but know I’ve learned that I have to live with that he’s better than me in most sports (laughs). I don’t mind it at all.
Marcus Gotz, Nicklas’ childhood friend: This is kind of a fun story, I played in Brynas when we had this meeting with some sort of sports therapist, he came from our district, and he said “We have good hockey players here in Gastrikland [the state], but we have one that stands out. It’s not you Marcus,” and we looked around at each other, “Who might that be?” And he said “It’s Nicklas Backstrom,” and we thought, “Yeah, he’s a good player,” but the therapist said, “He’s a really special guy. He’s so humble. In school, for example, if there’s this younger, smaller kid, Nicklas let him move ahead in the line at the canteen,” and we thought, “No, seriously! You can’t do that! What’s he doing?!” and then I met him, and he was just like that, so incredibly humble about himself.
Anders Backstrom: It’s gotten so much bigger than you could ever imagine. That Nicklas was going to be a good hockey player was easy to see, but this good, taking it this far. My brother use to say, “Think about everything you get to experience through Nicklas.” It’s just incredible.
Nicklas Backstrom: Here I’m playing video games with my cousin. I’m probably eleven, twelve, thirteen, maybe, I don’t know. No, maybe a bit younger.
Frida Nordstrand: Skates hanging there.
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah, but that’s not my room, it’s my cousin’s.
Nicklas Backstrom: A night at home in Mackmyra.
Frida Nordstrand: You don’t seem like the shy, quiet guy that you describe yourself as. You’re celebrating something?
Nicklas Backstrom: Yeah, it was probably some sort of game victory in the family.
Frida Nordstrand: No dancing spontaneously?
Nicklas Backstrom: No. It was probably some kind of “YES!” towards my dad and my brother.
Frida Nordstrand: Do you look back a lot or is it all happening too fast?
Nicklas Backstrom: It’s. it’s happening a bit too fast, actually. When we sit like this, I’m able to look back and think about how it all really happened. And it’s pretty fun to look back and think about all of the good memories from when I grew up, how I started playing hockey and think about how my career’s been so far. You don’t have the time to stop during a season and look back. There’s a lot of other things happening. But, of course, when you look at these pictures and the trip we took today. The memories come back. A lot of good memories. I will never forget where I came from.