Blues team captain David Backes stands firm on and off the ice.
YOU MIGHT NOT THINK a hockey player with more than 200 hits a season would be anyone’s first choice to lock horns with National Hockey League owners across a negotiating table.
Backes’ cover shoot and interview with ALIVE fell just two days after the news broke in September that the NHL was, in fact, facing another lockout. The turn of events could not have come at a worse time for Backes’ Blues, who were finally getting back in their groove, having made the second round of the playoffs last spring. Their sweep by the Los Angeles Kings, the eventual Stanley Cup winners, left “a sour taste in our mouths all summer,” Backes says. The team has something to prove; it doesn’t matter that they were Central Division champions, finishing ahead of nemeses Chicago, Detroit and Nashville. A repeat of the 2004-2005 season-killing lockout would be crushing. (As of press time, a new proposal from the owners was on the table, bringing a glimpse of hope to fans.)
Backes spent his summer fanning the flames of desire among his teammates, while also flying to New York, Toronto and Chicago as part of the players’ union negotiating team to talk revenue splits, salary caps and floors, guaranteed contracts and other divisive topics with the owners. And he still managed to take a road trip from his Clayton home for some downtime in Minnesota to fish and hang out with his wife, Kelly, and their beloved rescue pets.
Blues fans voted No. 42 their favorite player for a second year, and after spending the day with him for the photo shoot, we can certainly understand why. Despite news of the lockout, Backes kept his cool, often joking with the staff and effortlessly playing the handsome, heroic type while posing high on a rooftop overlooking the city. It’s no secret the guy is seriously toughÛÓhe didn’t miss any of the 82 games last season, and his goal-scoring prowess tied him for most points on the team with T.J. Oshie, his wingman on the first line. If there’s any doubt that Backes isn’t the exact right person to represent the Blues at the negotiating tableÛÓwell, just put us in the penalty box.
ALIVE: Why did you decide to volunteer for the negotiating team?
David Backes: It’s my profession and my career. I’d like to be informed. And it’s an amazing learning experience. You’re in the room with some of the most brilliant people in the world, the billionaire owners; they’re obviously really successful.
ALIVE: What’s the atmosphere like?
DB: They’re pretty casual until you start talking about the core economic stuffÛÓhow you’re going to split up the $3.3 billion industry.
ALIVE: Some of your fellow negotiators are also from the Blues, like Jamie Langenbrunner and Kevin Shattenkirk. Is the Blues owner, Tom Stillman, on the opposite side of the table?
DB: He is not on their negotiating team. I actually think [having him there] could lead to more of an understanding. The guys from [other teams] probably have a tough time relating to the way things have been in St. Louis for the past five-plus years.
Photo credit: Wesley Law