For some people, in-laws are a necessary evil – the part of the package that gets every other holiday, naming rights for grandchildren, and first dibs at the guest bedroom – but for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, the idea of ‘dreaded in-laws’ is something he’s never known.
Mike Backman played just under 30 games for the New York Rangers in three seasons spanning the early 1980s, and tallied a goal and five assists during his NHL stint. It may not have been a newsworthy career at the time, but nearly three decades later, the Halifax, Nova Scotia native finds that he’s left a slightly different kind of legacy.
Mike and his wife Toni have four children – Alicia, who is married to New York Islanders forward Matt Moulson; Sean, who is currently playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the Islanders organization; Jaclyn, who is married to the aforementioned Kings netminder; and Brett, who is currently playing hockey for Greenwich High School.
Many who are familiar with the Kings and Islanders are aware of the fact that Jonathan and Matt are brothers-in-law, but what they may not know is exactly how intricately the family is intertwined.
From the age of nine until he was 18, Jonathan was coached by Mike while playing youth hockey in Connecticut, which is also how Jonathan met his best friend, Sean, who played on the same team.
“Jaclyn’s father was a great coach to me and I learned a lot from him growing up,” said Jonathan, who made his first NHL All-Star Game appearance last month in Ottawa.
Jonathan and Sean both played hockey for Avon Old Farms, the prep school that Brett hopes to attend this fall. During that time, Alicia and Jaclyn, who consider themselves best friends, would often make the three-hour drive to watch their brother play, sometimes just to have to make the commute straight back in order to attend work the next day.
“Little did she know, she was watching not only her brother, but her future husband,” said Toni of Jaclyn, whose daughter, Madison, is the first grandchild in the family.
It wasn’t until Jaclyn was in college that she and Jonathan started dating.
“He called my brother up one day and asked for his permission to ask me on a date. Next thing I know I have my mom calling me, my sister calling me, asking why Quickie is asking Sean for his permission to date me,” said Jaclyn. “Jonathan was always like a brother to me, I didn’t know why he was either.”
“I definitely never thought Jaclyn would be married to Quickie – I always thought of him as a little brother,” said Alicia, whose godfather is George McPhee, the General Manager of the Washington Capitals.
When both Jonathan and Matt were playing for the Manchester Monarchs while in the Kings’ system, Jaclyn took a road trip to see Jonathan, whom she was dating at the time. Alicia decided to accompany her sister, in what would prove to be a fateful trip, as she was introduced to her future husband one night after a game.
“When Matt came along it was a shock to us,” Toni said. “We just never thought Alicia would date a hockey player.”
From the beginning of Alicia’s and Matt’s relationship, Matt made a habit of calling Mike to ask for advice and opinions on his game, and Alicia made it a point to make sure her father was available to speak to Matt on game days.
While it’s easier for the Backmans to attend and watch Matt’s games due to geographic reasons, they are never farther than a phone call or video chat away from the West Coast part of the family.
“I speak to my daughters and Sean every day, ever since they left for college,” said Toni, who says she only imparts advice if asked.
Toni admits she never wished a hockey wife life on her daughters, but concedes that it is much easier now than before, when wives and girlfriends did not move with their significant others when there was a call-up or a trade.
“The teams they are both affiliated with are very family-oriented and do everything possible to make things easier on the families,” said Toni, who had only Alicia before Mike retired from his playing days.
Both Alicia and Jaclyn deem their mother a role model as a person, wife and mother, which is becoming quite useful as both daughters find themselves playing the hockey wife role, as will at least one, possibly both of their sisters-in-law.
“Biggest thing I learned from her is to cook,” said Jaclyn. “My mom is an awesome cook and lucky for Jonathan she has taught me everything and given me all her recipes.”
While Jaclyn is only able to spoil Jonathan and perhaps some of his teammates with her cooking during the season, the entire family is happily inseparable during the summer. The Moulsons live in the same apartment complex as the Quicks, which is only about five minutes from the Backmans in Greenwich, Connecticut. Jonathan and Sean work out with the same trainer and Matt and Brett work out together with a different trainer.
“They all skate together everyday,” said Alicia, who is expecting the Moulsons’ first child. “We’re always together everyday and night during the summer.”
After all the sport of hockey has given to this family, the Quicks and the Moulsons have taken it upon themselves to give back to their communities through The 326 Foundation, an entity that both couples founded together.
A combination of Jonathan’s number 32 and Matt’s number 26, The 326 Foundation’s mission is to assist the Kings Care Foundation and the Islanders Children’s Foundation, benefiting non-profit organizations in Los Angeles and New York respectively. For every one of Jonathan’s wins, the Quicks donate $500 to the foundation, and the Moulson’s do the same for each one of Matt’s goals.
On Saturday, the Kings will invade Long Island, for a matchup that will be enjoyed live by Jaclyn and the rest of the Quick/Moulson/Backman clan.
“It’s just going to be another hockey game,” said Jonathan, when asked if the game held any particular significance to him. “Maybe to the sisters, it might mean a little more to them, but me and Matty don’t care about that kind of stuff. He’s trying to do whatever he can to help his team win and make the playoffs, and I’m just trying to do the same.”
The sisters won’t be the only ones with vested emotions inside Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum come puck drop. For Mike and Toni, it’s one of the healthy competitions that will only strengthen the bond within their already tight-knit family.
“We are all very close,” said Toni, who cooks for the entire family every Sunday night during the summer. “Plus, it makes Sunday dinners a lot easier on Mike because he can talk about his passion – hockey – to his sons, sons-in-law, and daughters.
“Not sure if a banker would have fit in. It’s funny how life works out.”