(Jeff Roberson/AP photo)
This past weekend I spent some time cleaning out my closet to eliminate clothing that doesn’t fit anymore from my days when I was a little huskier. Swiping through the hangers, I came upon two Blues jerseys. I pulled out two jerseys. A home jersey and an away jersey both signed by #42 David Backes. These jerseys brought back some memories for me, especially given the circumstances with winning The Cup but I will return to this thought.
When we think about who our favorite players are, there are certain factors that go into choosing ‘said player.’ As an adult, I gravitated toward David Backes as my favorite Blues player for an extended period. Backes was drafted in the 2nd round by the Blues in 2003. After a short stint in the minors, he was called up from the Peoria Rivermen during the 06-07 season. For ten seasons, we were all able to see how Backes put this team as his number one priority. Assuming his role as captain of the team for his last five seasons with The Blues was undoubtedly a highlight to his resume.
As a captain, #42 was always available to comment after games, and his emotional side spoke to me. His post-game comments seemed to come from the heart. A particular post-game conference comes to mind after losing to the Blackhawks when we acquired Ryan Miller and lost in the 1st round. His emotions were raw, and he was not taking the elimination lightly. During the interview, tears welled up in his eyes. Backes wanted nothing more than to push through the star-studded Chicago team. Unfortunately, that year came and went, and while this team went on to eventually beat Chicago in a seven-game series, later on, it would still end with the same result.
David Backes was my favorite player as an adult for one reason. His style of play and leadership resonated with me. As a captain, he influenced guys in an approachable locker room manner and was certainly respected. On camera, he appeared to tell the story and stray away from the rhetoric that we sometimes get as fans. Some post-game interviews can be filled with, “We just weren’t good tonight.” Other games, we may see comments such as, “We just need to be better.” Backes may have made those comments, but he took the extra step and always appeared to willingly want the team to reach that next level. I’m not saying guys on the team did not echo the same sentiment. He was our leader I looked to during that era.
I was fortunate enough to attend a season ticket holder event on December 2014 for a meet and greet. Fans were invited to sit in the lower bowl of the arena to watch a practice and take part in Q & A with Chris Kerber and Doug Armstrong. The two rows in front of me were empty, but I wasn’t sure why. After the Q & A, I realized why the two rows were empty. Players would soon fill these seats for a team picture with fans seated behind them. Unbeknownst to me, the player seated in front of me was #42 himself.
I was elated to wear his jersey and ask the most pressing question. We made small talk, but I knew he was coming off of a tough game in Columbus after taking a shot off the mouth from a puck. Backes was very kind and told me he had 13 stitches in his mouth from that game. Clearly, the stitches in his face showed the injury, and he was more than willing to take a picture with me; Double bonus for me that day since I drew his table and he signed my jersey as well.
Fast forward to November 2015 for the next season ticket holder event. I had saved that picture Backes took and wanted to give it to him. Thinking that he may remember the moment I made two copies. As a lighthearted joke, I signed one copy and gave it to him. He remembered taking the picture, and he signed my other copy. This moment was like a two-year venture that I held onto while being grateful that I was able to meet my favorite Blues player twice, and he did not disappoint.
Unfortunately, the Blues were unable to sign him and agree to terms at the end of the 2015-2016 season. It is a business, but I wanted to see him shine as our captain. Signing a five year, $30 million deal with the Bruins appeared to be the best for him. I can certainly respect that aspect. It was time for me to find my next favorite player for the time.
As a reader, you might be wondering, what is the whole point of this piece? I will tell you what my point is since it does come back to memories. It was disappointing to not see Backes on the ice for the last three games of the series. From a coaching standpoint, I understand the coach has to put the best players out there to give their team the best opportunity to win. Seeing Backes in the press box in his tailored suit watching his current team must have been heart-wrenching. His look was stoic, and he showed no emotion while he sat there not being able to contribute. As a fan of #42, I felt for this guy who wore the ‘C’ for five years with a team that he continuously poured into from one game to the next.
After finishing the cleaning out of my closet, I put my two #42 jerseys back into their same spots. Backes will still be one of my favorite players as a Blue. The memories he gave me made me think of a few friends who had their favorites. Players such as Garth Butcher and Wayne Babych. There doesn’t need to be a rhyme or a reason for a favorite player. The way a player made you feel watching them or even getting to meet them in passing is important. St. Louis does such a tremendous job at putting their fans first. I am forever thankful for the memories #42 gave me, and I wish him the best as he enters the next season. I hope this piece allows you to think about what it was that allowed you to choose a favorite player.
For those wondering who my current favorite player is these days. Colton Parayko is my guy. Take care of yourselves and each other.