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Bruins forward David Backes all about community

Family will be active in Boston charities to benefit animals, children

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward David Backes has been in his new hometown four days, looking for a house.

There's no doubt he'll need a lot of room, and he'll have to share in the decision-making process.

"It's the wife and then the baby and then the dogs and then the cats, and then I'm at the end of the list," Backes said Wednesday after he toured the Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals facility in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Backes' clan includes his wife Kelly, their 13-month-old daughter Stella, four dogs and two cats. Backes' love for animals led to him partnering with the MSPCA for a tour of the updated and expanded facilities to begin a philanthropic relationship expected to continue through the duration of the five-year, $30 million contract he signed with the Bruins on July 1.

Backes had 460 points (206 goals, 254 assists) in 727 games over 10 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Backes pads the lead with great shot

He and his wife began volunteering at an animal shelter when they were in college at Minnesota-Mankato because having pets as students in rentals was prohibited. They started out "cleaning kennels and scooping out litter boxes," Backes recalled. They continue to do those little things, but as Backes' profile as a professional athlete increased, the couple found a larger platform for making an impact.

In St. Louis, they helped out several organizations and eventually founded Athletes for Animals, described as "a united team of professional athletes with a shared passion for rescuing and protecting the welfare of homeless pets nationwide."

Backes figures to be active in several endeavors in the community once he gets settled here.

"We wanted to use our voice to influence social change and to try to make the world a better place," Backes said. "We said, 'Why not connect with the animal welfare, animal rescue community?' It's not limited to animals, but the animals that don't have a voice, the kids that don't have a voice [who] really tug at our heartstrings, and we want to help them with this blessing of a great voice that we've been given as professional athletes, to really use that to help."

Over the years, Backes has enlisted a long line of teammates and players from other teams to the cause. Word of mouth has turned out to be the best promotion.

"I think it was part of the reason that we loved St. Louis so much is that we connected with the community and connected with the people," Backes said. "[We] took the professional athlete persona and threw that away and just got our hands dirty with helping out and trying to make where we were a better place than when we found it.

"If we can help a few animals get adopted, or shed some light onto the availability of adoptable animals and connect with the community in tons of ways … youth hockey, you know growing up how big it is in Massachusetts."

Video: DAL@STL, Gm3: Backes nets his second goal of the game

Backes also made a splash Wednesday at Fenway Park, where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Boston Red Sox hosted the Detroit Tigers.

A lot will be expected of Backes this season. The Bruins have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons, and he is their marquee offseason acquisition. Backes, who had 45 points (21 goals, 24 assists) in 79 games for the Blues last season, said he expects the Bruins to turn things around.

But he wants to make sure he makes an impact off the ice too.

"It's just one of those things that children's causes, all of those things, are all credible things that need voices and need to be heard and need help funding and all those things," he said. "We want to be parts of all of that and really engross ourselves with the reception that I've had from the three, four weeks that I've been a Boston Bruin. You can tell that there's some passion and tons of people here that just yearn for another [Stanley] Cup."

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