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BACKLUND HONOURED WITH NHL NOMINATION

The Flames forward has been recognized for his work within the Calgary community

by AARON VICKERS @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

Win or lose, Mikael Backlund's post-game routine doesn't change.

Celebrate the win.

Or, more rarely the case this season, lament the loss. 

But regardless of outcome his route home is always the same.

With the same stop along the way.

"One of our coaches saw him taking some food here after a game and said to him, 'Oh you're taking some home for your wife?'" coach Glen Gulutzan recounts.

"'No, I stop and drop it off to a guy before I go home … a homeless guy, before I go home.'

"He's thinking about that after games.

"He makes a quick stop and gives a guy a meal. We didn't know that until 60 games in when one of our coaches saw him taking out some food. Very impressive on the ice for me. Probably the biggest surprise. Great guy in the locker room. Great professional. 

"Great humanitarian. 

"Excellent guy to have." 

It's about more than just wins and losses with Backlund. 

And though it isn't about the reward for the 28-year-old, Backlund has been named as the club's nominee for the 2016-17 NHL Foundation Player Award, presented annually to the player who applies the values of commitment, perseverance and teamwork to enrich the lives of those in the community.

"Of course it's always fun to get some nominations and all that for personal reasons, but that's not why I do it," said Backlund, who was named the 2014 recipient of the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award, presented to the Flames player who best exemplifies perseverance, determination and leadership on the ice, combined with dedication to community service off the ice. 

"I love helping other people and I'm very fortunate with my life so I like to help others that might struggle." 

Video: Backlund is a big supporter of the ALS Society

Backlund certainly helps.

He's helped raise $23,000 for children's cancer research in the 'Ride for Hope' bike race in Sweden that he now makes an annual event, and alongside girlfriend Frida Engstrom, he supports three local charities -- ALS Society of Alberta, Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta, and Special Olympics Calgary. 

For three seasons, Backlund and Frida have hosted families at home games on a monthly basis who are personally affected by ALS. Through their program, the families receive lower bowl tickets, a post-game meet and greet and a signed jersey.

"When I bring those people, families with ALS here, and some of them just give me tons of hugs," said Backlund, who with the partnership of KPMG also donates $200 for every point he records each season to the ALS Society of Alberta."There's been a few tears, too. It's sad but at the same time makes me feel good.

"I'm happy I can help them out. 

"Same with the Special Olympics. That's just a fun, great event. They're always so excited.

"I'm sometimes more excited than they are."

Video: The Flames played floor hockey with Special Olympians

Each season, Backlund attends the Special Olympics Calgary 'Breakfast with Champions' fundraiser, which supports more than 800 individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Calgary area. Twice this season, he's organized a floor hockey game alongside the athletes and his Flames teammates.

On an annual basis, Backlund also hosts 20 children who are battling cancer, and in February 2016 he supported a school fundraiser in support of Ethan, a student who organized a head shave in benefit of the Kid's Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta. Backlund donated a signed jersey to the school and provided Ethan with his very own 'Backlund' jersey and tickets to a hockey game.

Ethan's efforts have become an annual cause Backlund supports.

That support, and all of Backlund's other charitable contributions, isn't lost on teammates.

"He's a leader on the ice and he's grown in the community," said captain Mark Giordano, who was named the NHL Foundation Player Award winner last season. "He's been here for a long time. Watching him from a young age to where he is now he's come a long way.

"He came in as a quiet kid from Sweden who was really a little bit unsure. The confidence he has in himself now has grown. He's a leader in the room and outside of the room and in the community.

"That's important.

"It's been great to see. 

"I'm happy for him. I'm happy to see him get nominated and hopefully he continues his great work with his charities."

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