BOSTON -- Although forward David Backes joined the Boston Bruins for practice for the first time Monday, he wasn't too far behind many of his new teammates with little familiarity of their new practice facility.
"The facility first off, I don't know if it gets much better," Backes said after an hour-long practice at Warrior Ice Arena. "Other than needing a map to get around it because it's so large, it's everything you could want and everything's here for us guys."
Backes, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract (average annual value of $6 million) with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent July 1, was delayed arriving to training camp because he played for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. Team USA failed to qualify for the semifinals after going 0-3-0 in the preliminary round.
Backes said he took the weekend off after traveling from Toronto to Boston on Friday. But he was eager to put on a Bruins sweater and begin integrating into his new team.
"Getting on the ice, finally, after all the summer rigmarole, I think it's kind of one of those sighs of relief. Sort of 'OK, we're here, this is going to be home now,'" Backes said. "A couple of the guys goofing around, having fun while you're on the ice, doing what we're going to be doing and what we love to do ... it's been a long time coming. And to finally put that jersey on and to go out on the ice, it's a great day."
The 32-year-old had 206 goals and 254 assists in 727 regular-season games over 10 seasons with the St. Louis Blues. He became immersed in the St. Louis community and had served as Blues captain since 2011. The Bruins expect Backes to emerge as a leader, but he's going to take his time getting a prominent role until he's comfortable.
"Leadership, I think it's one of those things where you've got to earn the trust and the respect of your teammates," he said. "Some of that comes from playing in the League with them, but some of that comes with playing alongside of them, wearing the jersey with them, having each other's backs and doing the right thing all over the ice and every day. Once we get into that routine, I think there's a lot of great leaders in this room. There's a few that have won a Cup together. And I'm going to try to assimilate and be whatever asset I can in this room so that we can win games, get into the playoffs and keep winning games."
Backes wasn't part of the group of players who will play the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden on Monday. The Bruins have another home game Wednesday and then go on the road for a few more preseason games. Nothing will accelerate Backes' assimilation more than playing in games with his new teammates and he hopes to play in a game soon.
"I think if anything good comes of not advancing with Team USA, which would still love to be there, [it's] being able to get to a new city with a new team and a new area and new practice rink, start to figure things out and set roots down and learn systems and spend time with the coaches," Backes said. "Maybe this was an opportunity to advance with this team and really get ready for this season, which is why we're here and why we play the game is to win that Stanley Cup."