Backes emotional at chance to win a Cup after 'thinking about it for a long time'

Backes emotional at chance to win a Cup after 'thinking about it for a long time'

RALEIGH, N.C. – David Backes waited 13 seasons and 928 regular-season games for it, and now the 34-year-old Bruins forward is going to the Stanley Cup Final for the very first time in his distinguished, standout NHL career.

Certainly a chance at a Cup was part of the reason he signed a five-year contract with the Bruins in free agency, and the scenario coming to life left him with a massive grin on his face after the Cup Final-clinching win.

It also left him emotional in the moments that followed the victory as the reality set in that he was realizing one of his long-held NHL dreams. 

“I’ve thought about this moment for a long time, of playing for that ultimate prize you dream of when you’re a kid. Now it’s reality. It’s us against one other team, and one of us is going home with that Stanley Cup,” said Backes, who was then asked if this Cup Final could become a ‘Win one for Backes’ type of affair given that so many veteran B’s players already have Cup wins on their resume. "We’re concentrated on the Boston Bruins winning a Stanley Cup. With this group of brothers we’ve created here, we’re all in for our team, and whoever the opponent is, we’re gonna face them head on."

Backes wasn’t a big impact player in Boston’s 4-0 win in Game 4 over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday night while clocking under 10 minutes of ice time, but he’s made a positive impact on the B’s during their playoff run. He certainly brought some physical thump to the lineup in the first round against the Maple Leafs, and the B’s won three in a row vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets after he was inserted into the lineup for the second round.

Backes scored a goal in Game 2 of the conference final against the Hurricanes, and has a solid two goals and five points in the 11 games he’s suited up for during the postseason. So the hard-nosed, hard-hitting power forward certainly played a role in the Black and Gold getting to this point in the postseason, and it’s something his teammates are appreciative of while they’d clearly love to win a Cup for him after all this time.

“It was awesome to see the passion and the emotion that he had on his face after this game,” said Brad Marchand. “He’s been such a huge part of our group. He’s such a great leader. We build so much emotion off the way that he plays, and he’s such a phenomenal guy and great teammate. He’s had an incredible career. When you see a guy that’s been around for that long and he hasn’t had an opportunity to play for a Cup, and then he finally has that opportunity? It’s a lot of emotions.

“When you play in this league for a long time, you start to appreciate and understand how hard it is to win, and how few opportunities you get to win that Cup. We have that opportunity to play for it this year and you can see how excited he was. It was awesome to see.”

The best part of all of this is still yet to be decided.

Obviously it’s a great story if Backes finally gets that Cup he’s been chasing for more than a decade, and he's going to do that against the St. Louis Blues team that he captained prior to jumping to Boston. In a Stanley Cup Final where storylines and narratives rule the day, that will be one of the best ones for the Bruins. 

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Patrice Bergeron issues statement, pledges donation after George Floyd's death


Patrice Bergeron issues statement, pledges donation after George Floyd's death

Patrice Bergeron keeps a low profile off the ice, to the point where he doesn't have any social media accounts.

But the Boston Bruins center felt it was necessary to raise that profile following the murder of George Floyd.

Bergeron issued a statement Wednesday via the Bruins' Instagram and Twitter accounts reacting to a Minneapolis police officer's murder of an unarmed African-American man, which has sparked protests and cries for racial justice throughout the country.

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"As hockey players, we have a tendency to do our business while staying quiet, without wanting to make too much noise. It is our culture," Bergeron said in the statement. 

"But surrounding the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, it made me realize that by not speaking up on the matter, and not using my voice as a professional athlete, it’s in fact allowing racism to fester and continue. Silence is not an option for me anymore."

Bergeron also expressed a desire to "listen, educate myself and stand up for the Black community." The Bruins' alternate captain and Quebec native took action, as well, pledging donations of $25,000 each to the Boston branch of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Centre Multienthnique de Quebec.

Bergeron joins fellow Bruins veteran Zdeno Chara and many other Boston athletes advocating for justice and racial equality in America after a video emerged of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, killing the 46-year-old unarmed man.

Why aren't Bruins players back skating yet? Here's what's 'gummed things up'

Why aren't Bruins players back skating yet? Here's what's 'gummed things up'

While NBA players on teams like the Boston Celtics began getting back to work at their practice facilities this week, Bruins players and their brothers across the NHL are still in a bit of a holding pattern when it comes to getting back into playing shape.

Some like 43-year-old Bruins captain Zdeno Chara have already traveled back to the Boston area to get ready for small, informal practices that will happen when the league moves to Phase 2 of the return-to-play program. Some others undoubtedly have found smaller, local rinks to at least get back on the ice and begin skating again while also still practicing social distancing.

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But the NHL doesn’t want a staggered opening of NHL practice facilities when some teams skating together earlier than others could give them a potential competitive advantage when it does come time to return to play.

What’s holding up the NHL at this point with so many states around the United States beginning to open back up things like athletic practice facilities?

In a nutshell, the NHL won’t let Phase 2 begin until all 31 teams can safely and legally open up their practice facilities and there are still complications with the Canadian cities when it comes to practicing, or when it comes to foreign-born players not being allowed to head back to Canada from other places around the world.

Until that changes, the NHL will still be on pause with July 10 as the earliest date being looked at when NHL training camps could start in earnest with a goal of returning to play in the 24-team tournament in late July/early August. That all could and should change over the next week or two, but there are no concrete indications when exactly it is going to happen.

“We need to find out and find out very quickly. It’s early June and the NHL and NHLPA have indicated that they want to initiate Phase 2 in early June. That’s now. I think we’re going to learn a lot this week and drifting into next week,” said TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger during an NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with his Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast partner -- TSN Hockey Analyst Ray Ferraro -- earlier this week. “You talk to people around the league and players are already beginning to return to their NHL cities, so as soon as it’s safe to initiate Phase 2 they are going to do that. The tricky part is that Canada, and the seven Canadian teams, are holding things up a little bit. And that’s not on the NHL.

“Health Canada and the provincial officials and the federal government here in Canada are being incredibly careful. I’m appreciative of that and so is Ray [Ferraro]. We both live in Canada. But it’s gummed things up a little bit, no question about that, in terms of the NHL moving things forward.”

Ferraro, the longtime NHLer with 18 years in the league, including a memorable stint with the Hartford Whalers at the beginning of his career, likened the current NHL stage to the very beginnings of building an entire house.

“What I got from when we talked to the commissioner [on the Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast] is that they’ve got this plan, but now it’s like if you’re building a house and you’ve poured the foundation and put the studs up,” said Ferraro. “Now they’re trying to fill in everything else inside the studs. Each time you finish one thing there is something else that comes up. Even just in the conversation we had, you start running ahead on what you need to accomplish just to get [the NHL] back as safely as possible… never mind whether you like the format or whether the Bruins as the best team in the season are getting the short end of the stick, which they kind of are ... but that doesn’t even matter right now.

It’s about can you even execute an incredibly complicated and detailed plan? For me that’s what this is about first and foremost, is can you even execute it?

The United States recently signed an order that made professional athletes essential workers, which enables them to travel back into the country from other areas of the world in order to return to their NHL cities.

The COVID-19 restrictions in Canada could also eliminate Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton from consideration when it comes to the two designated hub cities that the NHL narrowed down to 10 candidates last week when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman discussed the league’s return-to-play plan.

The best guess is that the NHL’s Phase 2 should begin in the next two weeks with groups of six NHL players on the ice at the same time in informal, voluntary settings, but stay tuned on exactly when that might happen for the Bruins and the other 23 teams still alive in the NHL's postseason format.