The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/29/14 at 04:22 PM ET
Mattias Backman gave a superb interview to Corren.se's Andreas Pettersson yesterday (six-and-a-half-minute-long Swedish video interview included), and in a lovely little coincidence, the Red Wings posted a video profiling the stringbean defenseman this afternoon:
If you missed the interview, here's a rough translation of Corren's Pettersson's chat with Backman:
Backman looking forward to his adventure
Ice Hockey: This fall, it's finally time for Mattias Backman. Time for the big adventure. The dream of moving to North America will take place, and he'll get his chance to earn a spot in the world's best hockey league, which is his biggest goal.
And not just any team in this case, but the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. And the Linkoping native is ready for the challenge.
It's a sunny afternoon. The sun's almost at the top of the sky when Corren steps into the patio at the Backman family home in Vidingsjo. We can't ring or go in through the front door--the staircase has just been freshly-painted, and there's a note asking us to walk around back.
Mattias shows up, his mood seems to be good, and we settle down in the shade under the porch awning. His cat, Alice, visits as Mattias takes a seat on the sofa.
Mattias is gearing up for the biggest adventure thus far in his career, but from the outset, there was never much hope that he'd be playing games in the NHL.
"I never thought that I'd be drafted, actually. I hadn't talked to many teams at all, so I didn't have big hopes."
But in the summer of 2011, he received news that changed the direction of his hockey career.
"I was at our cottage in Bestorp, and was following the draft picks on my phone, and the coverage was bad, but I tried to follow the first round. The rest of the rounds took place the day after, and I knew some friends would be picked, but in the end, when I was drafted, it was a bit shocking, but it was cool as hell."
He was selected in the 5th round, 146th overall. In the same draft, Jonas Brodin and Mika Zibanejad were drafted, but no players were selected from Linkopings Hockey, just Mattias.
This fall, he's moving to Michigan, either to Detroit or Grand Rapids.
Does it feel real to you?
"Yes, but I have to make it after all. I've had some time to think a little, clearly it's huge, but I'm trying to not make it bigger than it already is, just to view it as a fun thing."
Currently, Mattias is living at his parents' home in the village of Vidingsjo. The street outside the house is where it all began, this is where his career started around 20 years ago, when he played street hockey in and out with his neighbor and teammate, Claes Norden.
"I'll have to thank my dad and grandfather, they were the ones who took me to the rink when I was two. I could hardly talk, but I already wanted to play hockey. I started first with skating, and then the kids' league hockey school, and it just rolled along."
How does it feel to live at home again?
"It's a bit of a hassle to move home (laughs), but it's also beautiful. I actually already bought an apartment in Linkoping, but it's being renovated so I'm living at home temporarily. It's both good and bad, to get served and serve," says Mattias, and he smiles.
When his career took off, he had to opt out of soccer to bet everything on hockey. And it's been good for Mattias. In 2012 he won the Under-17 World Junior Championship, but his greatest moment as a hockey player was the World Junior gold medal that year.
"The Under-17 championship was huge, but it can't even compare. The Under-20 gold was fantastically fun, to win with some of the players I grew up with and played with as a youngster."
His 3-year contract with the Red Wings was signed for the 2013-14 season, but he was loaned to Linkopings Hockey Club. Mattias has completed a successful season, and he was the best in terms of plus-minus in the SHL.
"It was both me and those who thought that I should remain and continue to grow. I got a lot of confidence and got to play a lot."
After LHC was beaten in the semifinal against Skelleftea last year, Mattias went to North America and played in the playoffs for Detroit's farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
"I got 12 or 13 games in the playoffs. I played a lot, including on the first power play unit and stuff like that. I got huge confidence there, and it went very well for me, it was very fun."
The 21-year-old's humble. It seems like he has his feet on the ground and doesn't want to dream himself too far away.
"I've always said that I didn't want to be in a hurry to go over. It's foolish to stress over it, it's me who's deciding and knows what's best for me. But now I feel that it's time to go."
September's the time. He'll go to the USA and Traverse City, where Detroit holds its rookie camp.
"Then the best players will stay and those who aren't good enough will be cut. We'll see if I hang in, or whether I play in the AHL."
"I don't really know what will happen, which team I will play for. I can't have too high expectations, that I should play in the NHl right away, that's very tough. Everyone is superb, so I have to perform at my best all the time if I'm going to be there. And you've got to see long-term, it might be good to play in the AHL, too, to learn the game and to grow into it. I don't see it as a disadvantage to play in the AHL, absolutely not."
"You can see how the Detroit organization has worked for the apst couple of year,s they've always schooled their players in the AHL for at least a year or two.
The Red Wings' farm team, the Griffins, play in Grand Rapids. The city is also in Michigan, about 250 kilometers from Detroit.
"It's one of the better cities in the AHL, I've heard. I really liked it there, lived only 200 meters from the rink. The town's about the size of Linkoping, about 300,000 residents. A big small town in the USA, but with lots of restaurants, beautiful people and a great team."
He's aware of the fact that it's far less glamorous to play in the AHL than the NHL.
"In the AHL, travel is by bus, there's very little air travel. In the NHl teams have private jets but in the AHL it's on the bus all the time, and you have to be tough."
That the season will involve at least 30 more games than he's used to in the SHL doesn't worry him.
"There will be a little more travel and all of that, but I think it will be fun to get to play more games, that's what you want."
Mattias signed up before a U.S. adventure on the West Coast, abroad with his family, and he's now home in Linkoping.
"I have about six weeks left at home, so it will be with my pals and so on. I'm just trying to have a great summer, and I'm also training hard."
How does it feel to leave Linkoping?
"I'll miss my friends, feeling secure and obviously my family, but I think it will be nice to go over, take the next step and see how far it can go, and it's enough to know that I'll be coming back home in the summer."
How much will you miss the fitness center at Vidingsjo?
(Laughter) "Not so much, in fact there have been some pretty terrible moments, I have to say."
Do you feel like you're ready to go?
"I can't sit and say so here and now, it's difficult. You never know, but somehow you still have to feel that you want to and that you're surely going to try to feel ready, but I've lived here all my life."
Finally, how long will you stay in North America?
"Of course, I'd love to stay there for my whole career, that's the goal. But I haven't thought about more than two years, then we'll see what happens," says Mattias.
It's feast and famine in the same day Wings news-wise. This morning, Justin Abdelkader was suspended by the IIHF for a dumb hit delivered during the World Championships, and Mikael Samuelsson signed with Djurgardens IF of the SHL, there was more than enough news for a mid-day entry, and Ken Holland appeared on Detroit Sports 105.1 FM this afternoon, but things have quieted down for the present moment.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.