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Hockey Fights Cancer

Backstrom of Capitals sharing story of mom overcoming cancer

Center hoping to raise awareness, money with autographed lavender skate blades

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Behind the Card: Backstrom

Behind the Card: Nicklas Backstrom

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom discusses his mother's battle with breast cancer.

  • 01:14 •

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Sometimes life has a way of providing perspective.

Nicklas Backstrom was reminded of that following a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Second Round. The Washington Capitals led 3-1 in that best-of-7 series and appeared to be on their way to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1998 before losing three in a row to the Rangers.

But Backstrom's disappointment following the loss suddenly became irrelevant after he received a phone call from his father, Anders. His mother, Catrin, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

 

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"My dad called me actually right after we lost the game," Backstrom said. "That was tough to lose against the Rangers, but all the sudden hockey didn't mean anything. It was just about her."

Catrin has been cancer-free for the past year and a half, and Nicklas is sharing her story to help promote Hockey Fights Cancer Month. To honor his mother, who is 58, the center will autograph and auction off lavender skate blades. He was going to wear them during warmups for the Capitals' Hockey Fights Cancer game against the Vancouver Canucks at Capital One Arena on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNO, SNP, NBCSWA, NHL.TV), but he is injured and will miss his second straight game because of an upper-body injury. 

Tweet from @backstrom19: Check out my autographed custom #HockeyFightsCancer lavender skate blades I had created in honor of my mother, a cancer survivor. The @Capitals #CapsFightCancer Auction ends tomorrow, so bid now: https://t.co/VuRr8GNdz6 pic.twitter.com/h6F9q25r96

Lavender, which represents all forms of cancer, is the official color of the Hockey Fights Cancer campaign.

"All of us know somebody, a family member or a friend or someone who has either had cancer or is going through it right now," Backstrom said. "So I think it's an important subject we have to talk about and really fight it together."

Backstrom's skate blades, along with lavender warmup jerseys the Capitals will wear and other items, are part of the Monumental Sports and & Entertainment Foundation's Hockey Fights Cancer auction on Handbid. Bidding closes during the second intermission of the game against Vancouver.

Proceeds from the auction will benefit Flashes of Hope (which raises funds for children's cancer and those impacted by it), the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Backstrom wore lavender skate blades to honor Catrin before to the Capitals' Hockey Fights Cancer game last season, and they sold for $625 in the charity auction.

"It just started with I wanted to do something different, but it wasn't really on purpose to throw her name out there," Backstrom said. "I think all the players in the League are doing a great job of supporting this month and the way we battle this disease. I think it's very important that we're aware of that and fight it together.

"Especially for my mom going through it, it means a lot for her too and all the other cancer patients."

Backstrom's mother was diagnosed a few weeks before his father called him, but, being typically unselfish, she didn't want him to worry about her while he was playing in the playoffs. So she had Anders wait until after the Capitals were eliminated to break the bad news.

"They kept it from me so I could just focus on hockey," Backstrom said.

When Backstrom was growing up in Gavle, Sweden, Catrin always seemed to put him and his older brother, Kristoffer, a defenseman who played professionally in Germany and Sweden before retiring in 2017, ahead of herself. She was a typical hockey mom, driving them to practices and games.

"She was probably the one that drove us the most," Backstrom said. "Even if my dad was there, he worked a little longer and my mom was the one taking care of our family. She was the rock in our family."

So learning his mother had breast cancer was understandably upsetting to Backstrom. Fortunately, Catrin's breast cancer was diagnosed early and she had already begun treatments by the time he found out.

"She was fortunate," Backstrom said. "They were able to catch it early, so they were doing the surgery and stuff, and everything was under control."

Although watching his mother go through this was stressful for Backstrom, she remained the upbeat matriarch she's always been for his family.

"My mom is pretty positive, and she kept laughing and stuff so she wouldn't get down on herself," Backstrom said. "She made the whole process a lot easier, I think. We didn't really talk about it. We just worked through it together, so that was special."

Backstrom said his mother continues to go for checkups twice a year, but now, "She's doing great. She's feeling awesome."

Catrin did her share of celebrating when her son had his day with the Stanley Cup in Gavle after the Capitals won it in 2018. She chronicled the day by posting a host of photos on her Instagram account, including one of Nicklas helping to lift her while she did a Cup stand.

"That was just one of her fine moments," Backstrom said, laughing. "She's that personality. She's laughing and she wants to be in the middle of everything. That's more her style, and that's great."

Undoubtedly, Catrin will be proud to see him doing his part, in her name, to help fight the disease she battled so courageously.

Backstrom said she won't be in Washington for the Capitals' Hockey Fights Cancer game, which happens to fall on his 32nd birthday.

"She thinks it's pretty special," Backstrom said. "I'm doing it for her and for other patients. It's not just her. I think it's an important thing that we all fight together. It's not just one person with cancer. It impacts everyone in society, and it's been a big problem lately."

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