Published: February 4, 2014
The NHL will shut down for more than two weeks to enable several of its finest players to compete in the 2014 Olympics.
This is the right move, said St. Louis Blues captain and U.S. Olympian David Backes. He's heard from various sources - players, coaches, fans - who believe the NHL should keep right on rolling as usual during the Olympics.
Make that strongly disagrees.
"It would stifle the growth of the game," Backes said.
When Backes played with the Americans' 2010 silver-medal team, he heard from dozens of non-hockey fans who had watched the Olympic competition. Backes is, of course, a devoted supporter of hockey, and he wants its popularity to spread.
The Olympics clearly spreads that popularity.
"Random people in restaurants would come up to me," Backes said, "and they would say, 'I've never been a hockey fan, but I watched that Olympic game and now I'm a hockey fan.' It's a no-brainer to grow the game."
Backes is proud of his association with the Blues, but he harbors even more pride in his association with the U.S. hockey team.
"Being able to play in the Olympics in 2010 was probably the highlight of my career," he said.
He hopes to depart Russia in February with an even more memorable highlight. In 2010, the United States lost in the final on Canada's home ice in Vancouver.
Backes believes a final matchup with Russia is a strong possibility in Sochi. He knows his teammates have the nerve and poise to deliver victory on foreign soil.
He's not worried, he insists, about Russia's home-ice advantage.
"We'll block that out, use it as motivation," he said. "There's only one thing better than home fans supporting you."
"And that's a silent road building."
Backes knows this silent road building - and the victory that goes along with the silence - could create millions of new American hockey fans.