BLAINE, Minn. – David Backes first hit the ice at Fogerty Arena when he was five years old. It did not end very well.
Backes was not wearing any gear during his inaugural trip around the rink and at one point fell and bashed his head off the ice.
“I don’t know what my parents were thinking,” Backes joked.
Despite that rough start, Backes stuck with it. He received some skating lessons from a friend’s father and, as the years passed, his love and passion for the game grew.
Fogerty Arena became a second home.
It was the rink where he made so many memories, met so many friends, and where he ultimately began to construct the framework for a tremendous career in the National Hockey League.
So each time Backes walks through the doors of his hometown rink – which sits just outside of Minneapolis – the recollections come flooding back, as they did last week when the new Bruins forward visited the old stomping grounds during #BearTracks, presented by Sal’s Pizza.
“Playing here as a high school player, those are some of my best memories, having the whole side of the stands filled with students and some rowdy parents – those were typically my rowdy parents up in the stands,” said Backes, whose No. 5 Spring Lake Park High School jersey has been retired and hangs on display in the rink’s concourse.
“A lot of great memories in this building.”
The 32-year-old, who signed a five-year contract with the Black & Gold in July, still skates at Fogerty about a dozen times a summer, as the rink is just some 12 miles down the road from his offseason home.
“This area is special to me because my parents still live here, my in-laws still live here, and we’re so far away from them during the season,” said Backes, who makes Minnesota home with his wife Kelly and one-year-old daughter Stella.
“The grandparents get to see our daughter and you get to hang around the lakes, be on the water, and enjoy great weekends – get to relax, kick back, and enjoy some nice summer nights.”
When Backes stopped by the rink on Thursday, he was greeted by a number of its employees, some of whom have been there for years and remember when Backes was one of the best high school players in Minnesota.
“Everything was his job. He scored goals, took penalties, knocked guys down, picked up the puck, made passes,” said Dean Brandt, a longtime rink employee and high school referee, who officiated dozens of Backes’ games.
“He made the rink look good. We’re proud as heck of him.”
That pride is apparent through the Backes jerseys, photos, and other types of memorabilia that adorn the rink’s walls.
“You come back here and see the familiar faces,” said Backes. “It makes it fun to come work out.”