We, the hockey faithful, clearly are living in the Era of Ovechkin. Years from now, young fans will ask in awe whether you saw ‘The Great Eight’ play…much as I recall asking about ‘Mr. Hockey’ – the incomparable Gordie Howe. Both of them bold, brash…the hero who lifts his team to new heights.
But no team soars just by one star. Thus we in DC are privileged to also be witness to the Age of Backstrom – one Lars Nicklas Bäckström to be exact.
If you ever needed convincing of this, our current play-off series with the New York Islanders makes the case abundantly. In the dot, he’s quiet brilliance. During the PP, he’s the effortless conductor and composer of play. If there’s sustained fore-check and scoring possibilities, he does what’s needed to see the team gets it done.
And when you are just about to collapse waiting for that last-minute goal that keeps you in the game, or sets you over the top, quietly, like a Nordic snowfall, 19 will make it happen.
Nick Backstrom, in his nine years with the Caps, has entered into the already crowded Swedish Hockey Hall of Heroes – standing, though often in the shadows, of legends as Henrik Lundqvist, Peter Forsberg, Henrik Zetterberg, the Zedin twins, and Niklas Kronwall, to name only a few. Just this year we saw him, without much comment, become the Capitals’ franchise leader in assists – 60 so far this season.
As Ovi exemplifies the best of Russian hockey, so does Nicky 19 show off the very best of what we might call the Swedish Style of Hockey. Elegant, speedy, cerebral, and always ready to help his teammates, Nicklas Backstrom is today the pre-eminent model of everything that’s best about Swedish hockey: he’s quick, powerful, and beautiful.
As part of our recent discussions with ambassadors of the Great Hockey Powers, we recently had the great luck to speak with His Excellency Björn Lyrvall, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to the U.S.
Amb. Lyrvall, to no-one’s surprise, has spent much of his career in high-profile assignments, from the former Soviet Union to present-day Russia, Bosnia, London and Brussels, among others. He graciously took time with us to discuss another matter of great international importance – hockey. Continue reading