The Calgary Flames announced today that Mikael Backlund has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Calgary chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA). The annual award goes to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"It's an honour to get the nomination," said Backlund. "It's something to take pride in. It's pretty cool to get nominated and I'm really excited about it."
"The 28-year old pivot was selected for his outstanding 2016-17 season and commitment to leadership in the community.
Backlund, a first-round pick of the Flames in 2007 (24th overall), has had a career campaign on a line with Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk. Often leading the way for the Flames on most nights, he's scored a career-high 21 goals and 29 assists in 73 games to go along with a plus-13 rating. For the first time in his NHL career, he has amassed 50 points. This season has been a long time coming for Backlund. Since joining the Flames, he's battled through injuries including a broken finger, shoulder separation and abdominal pull which caused him to miss significant periods of time in the early stages of his NHL career. The Vasteras, Sweden, native improved the defensive side of the game and is now one of the most consistent players on the Flames. He is frequently trusted with shutting down opponents' top lines on most nights and is a strong candidate for the Selke Trophy this season.
Backlund's off-ice contributions are equally impressive. His commitment to the community is irrefutable and he is willing to attend any and every community event with a smile on his face. Dating back to the 2013 floods in Calgary, he was first on the phone to orchestrate a fundraiser for flood relief on the morning of June 21 just hours before he was scheduled to fly home to Sweden for the summer. Once he arrived home, Backlund unfortunately had to say goodbye to one of his best friends who had a long and courageous battle with cancer. He then decided that he would enter the "Ride for Hope" bike race in Sweden in his honour. Backlund ended up raising $23,000 for children's cancer research and now makes it an annual event.
Backlund and his girlfriend Frida Engstrom support three local charities including Special Olympics Calgary, Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta, and the ALS Society of Alberta.
Every season, he attends the Special Olympics Calgary Breakfast with Champions annual fundraiser. Funds raised at the Breakfast support more than 800 individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Calgary area. On two occasions this year, he organized a floor hockey game alongside the athletes and brought some of his teammates. In 2016, he organized a game and invited Flames Alumni to participate.
Backlund attended a school fundraiser in February 2016 to support Ethan, a student who organized a head shave in support of the Kid's Cancer Foundation of Alberta. Mikael signed autographs, donated a signed jersey to the school, and spoke to the students about the importance of supporting Ethan. He also provided Ethan with his very own Backlund jersey and tickets to an upcoming game alongside his family. Through Ethan and Mikael's efforts, 20 other kids joined the head shave. This included a couple of girls who cut 12 inches of their hair to donate to wigs and the school even had a few girls that shaved their heads completely. Following the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, Mikael and Frida visited the school once again to assist with Ethan's BBQ where proceeds from all burger and hot dogs sold supported the Kid's Cancer Foundation of Alberta. Each year, Mikael hosts 20 children and KCCF representatives at a Flames game.
For the past three seasons, Mikael and Frida have hosted two families that are dealing with ALS and offer them 10 lower bowl tickets, a personal meet and greet with the families, a signed jersey, and Calgary Flames Backlund t-shirts. In partnership with KPMG, Backlund donates $200 for every point he records each season to the ALS Society of Alberta.
Backund was the 2014 recipient of the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award presented annually by the Calgary Flames organization to the Flames player who best exemplifies perseverance, determination and leadership on the ice, combined with dedication to community service off the ice."
- Calgary Chapter of the PHWA
The trophy was first presented by the NHL Writers' Association in 1968 to commemorate the late William Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited, to a high degree, the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968 after an injury sustained during a hockey game. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.
A grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner. Two Flames have won the trophy, Lanny McDonald in 1983 and Gary Roberts in 1996.