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Backlund's WJC memories

by Kristi Hennessy / Calgary Flames
Mikael Backlund played in two World Junior Championships for Team Sweden in 2008 which was held in Czech Republc and 2009 in Ottawa. Backlund tallied seven points in six games in each year. For him the experience was amazing and he would do anything to be able to play in the tournament again.

"It was the most fun I've ever had," said Backlund. "It was so much fun to play in this tournament, to put on your national team's jersey is really special. In the first game your so excited and pumped up. Every goal, everybody is so excited and it means a lot. It is a lot of young guys and everyone is so pumped up and just wants to win the tournament. It's crazy and a lot of fun. I have a lot of good memories from it."

For Backlund personally, he prepared for the tournament by looking at each team individually to see what their rosters looked like and how Team Sweden would measure up.

"We look through the teams in the groups that we're playing agains," said Backlund. "I'm always interested to see the other teams and what their rosters are like. Of course you want to beat Canada because they are usually ranked number one and they always have a good team but Finland is always special to play against too because we have a good rival there."

Backlund watches as much of the tournament as he can depending on where the team is. He said that last year, when he was on Abbotsford, he had a hard time watching as they were somewhere in the US where the games were not on. This year, he will watch as much as he can.

"I watch as much as I can, I really like the tournament. It gives me really good memories and I just want to go back and play it again, it was so fun," said Backlund with a smile. "I will definitely watch it."

What is up and coming for Team Sweden?

"The last couple years have been really good for prospects. When I was 16 they started having summer camps for players for 16, 17, and 18-year-olds. My first year, guys like Backstrom and a lot of of other good players were there. Since then, we've been better and better at the World Juniors and the Under 18's. I think those camps are really good to get all the best players in the country together and work on their skills. It really helped me and all the other guys a lot too."

"They will have a few more good years it looks like," he continuted. "We have a lot of really good talent back in Sweden and a lot of good guys coming. This year, two guys may go top three (in the draft), Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog so we've got some really good young players coming up."

Backlund describes Sweden and most of Europe to be very similar to Canada as far as hockey is concerned. You grow up playing a lot of it and all you can dream of is becoming a hockey player.

"When I grew up it was more street hockey in the winter," said Backlund."We do have this sport called Bandy, it's like a soccer field on ice. You play with shorter sticks. Every week it is open to the public so every weekend we would go skating. Some night's I'd go with my friends skating. There was a lot of that and a lot of street hockey on the streets trying to be Teemu Selanne and those guys and now I'm here playing against him so it's kind of funny.

" It's not as crazy as here (Canada), but still, hockey is crazy in Sweden. Me growing up, that's the only thing I knew was going out and playing street hockey or skating outside and practicing. I love the game, I've always enjoyed it and had a lot of fun."

Backlund always wanted to be a righty because of his idol growing up, Teemu Selanne but his dad would tell him that he should play left to make it even during street hockey matches. The other kids weren't as good as him and he was able to go back and forth between the two. Here he is today, a left handed hockey player.

"Actually I wanted to be Teemu Selanne," Baclund said. "I wanted to be a righty, but my dad told me not to. On the streets I'd play with guys that weren't as good so I'd have to switch to a lefty instead of a righty.

"He was my big hero and it's too bad he was injured last game in Anaheim. It's weird growing up trying to be him and now I'm at the same level as him."

Looking back at the tournament and playing for his counrty, Backlund says he'd do it all again in a heartbeat however, winning a Stanley Cup is at the top of his priority list and always has been.

Author: Kristi Hennessy

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