ST. LOUIS -- David Backes stood in the middle of the Cupples C Room at the Westin Hotel in downtown St. Louis reliving 10 years of memories of the only NHL team he's known.
As a second-round pick in the 2003 NHL Draft (No. 32), Backes was faced with the reality that his tenure with the Blues, at least for now, was over after he signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Boston Bruins on Friday, the first day of free agency.
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When Backes played in his first NHL game at Scottrade Center, on Dec. 21, 2006, the building was half-empty and the Blues were near the bottom of the NHL standings. Ten years later, the Blues were two wins shy of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, and Backes, who had been captain since 2011, was front and center.
As he prepared for the next step of his career in Boston, Backes was still processing the idea of leaving St. Louis.
"For some reason I've been fortunate enough and really spoiled in this world to play 10 years with the same team and not have to experience moving on around the place. I'm experiencing that side of the business. Lee Stempniak, who played with me that first year, he's played for 10 teams in this League," Backes said. "That's two opposite sides of the coin. I've been very fortunate and I know that. Those memories are still with me. I even saw one of my mock-up jerseys for Boston. I'm triple-taking looking at it wondering if this is real. But as this chapter closes, there's an excitement and opportunity to go to Boston and hopefully win myself a Cup and do it with a great group of guys there.
"The Blues did an awesome tribute, a little snippet on the site that made me well up to watch it, to see me score that first goal. "I'm still a kid, lanky, don't know where my appendages are in that video playing with [Keith] Tkachuk and living in his basement. All those memories are vivid and they all come back, what the team was back then, the turnover and how many guys have come and gone. "
Backes leaves after 727 regular-season games, fifth-most with the Blues, behind Bernie Federko (927), Barret Jackman (803), Brian Sutter (779) and Brett Hull (744). His 206 goals and 460 points are sixth and his 254 assists are eighth.
He showed how much the city and Blues fans meant to him with a heart-felt message on his Twitter account.
"When it was done I had to edit it for 15 minutes to make sure that it said a lot of the things or all the things and didn't exclude anything and didn't have anything in there I didn't want to say," Backes said. "As I've said before, the affection for the town and the team and this community is certainly still there. I wanted to show I'm appreciative of everything that people in this area have done for my wife and I and daughter and the charity work that we do and how that's been embraced and the disappointment that I'm not still with the organization and the great memories that no one will ever take from me that I've been able to create as a member of this team. I'll pass the torch on to whoever comes after me. I don't know who that's going to be, but if it's not the Bruins I hope it's the Blues that's raising the Cup and we'll meet again."
Backes' rights as an unrestricted free agent gave him the power to choose where the next chapter in his life would take him. Unlike teammate Troy Brouwer, who left after one season to sign a four-year contract with the Calgary Flames on Friday, Backes had an emotional investment in wanting to remain in St. Louis.
Video: Cards say farewell to former Blues captain Backes
"Last night was probably the toughest when you realize it's probably not going to get done here and you've got to start to turn that page a little bit and know that that chapter's maybe over," Backes said. "Those feelings are tough because we have 10 years of memories, of building, of growing as people, of growing a family in this town with this team.
"The why? There's people that were calling each other with direct contact that could probably answer that question a little bit better than me. In the end it didn't happen and now we're having these departure conversations instead of talking about an extension and there's certainly a part of me that says that this could have been a different conversation this evening."