KERBER: Backes is Captain & Remembering 9/11 from Alaska
Over time in the NHL, the personality and play of a strong and longstanding captain becomes the face and identity of a franchise. The St. Louis Blues have named David Backes the 20th Captain in Blues history. After a long stretch between Dallas Drake and Eric Brewer being named, the team did not wait long to add Backes’s name to a strong list of St. Louis Blues leaders. The Blues had a lot of options ranging from veteran Barret Jackman to 2nd year player Alex Pietrangelo, but they sought longevity in this decision, and David Backes is beginning year one of a five year contract.
This choice should be no surprise to anyone. David has come on the NHL scene and grown into this role. Those that have watched him develop into one of the NHL’s top quality power forwards and someone that should have been a Selke Finalist last season, have done so while watching a team grow around him. His presence is known. He handles himself professionally on and off the ice. He will stand in front of the media win or lose and answer any question asked. He has never dodged responsibility or pointed elsewhere as this team has gone from the worst in the NHL to one of the more exciting young teams around.
Backes will have plenty of help to draw from. Newcomers Jason Arnott and Jaime Langenbrunner have both been NHL captains. Backes will have assistant captains in Barret Jackman, Andy McDonald, Arnott and Langenbrunner, the latter three are all Stanley Cup Champions. On the coaching staff is a former Captain in Scott Mellanby and Al McInnis is of course in the front office.
The longest tenured Blues Captains have been Brian Sutter (9yrs), Barclay Plager (6 yrs), and Chris Pronger (5 yrs). There is no reason to think with his play on the ice, his contract, and direction of this team, that David Backes can’t wear the “C” for at least somewhere in the Plager range and we’ll see if Sutter is eventually moves in sight. From a fans perspective, it’s the most popular choice. Does that matter? Not really. What matters is inside the locker room and it appears the Blues staff made a solid choice for not just the immediate future but long term as well.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
A quick thought back to September 11th 2001. On September 11, 2001, the St. Louis Blues were scheduled to open training camp in Anchorage, Alaska. The team arrived in Anchorage a couple of days before and players, staff and management spent the first two days sightseeing and adventure seeking. On the 10th, Jim Heuer and I spent the day salmon fishing in the Upper Kenai River. What a day.
After dinner and a night on the town, it was time to call it a night and get ready for camp to open the next day. The next morning, I awoke to a phone call from Scott Warmann asking if I had seen what was going on. I said no and he told me to turn on the TV. That’s when the confusion and chaos of the day began. Most of us had gathered in the lobby of the hotel trying to piece together what we were watching on tv. The entire day was spent watching the televisions in the hotel lobby with friends and strangers, all completely numb.
The team decided to go to the rink the next day. At that point we had no idea what to do, what the schedule would be, was it right to be there, and what it all meant. We all spent as much time on the phone with family and friends as possible. With all the flights, grounded, we were unsure if we would be able to head back to St. Louis at the end of the week as scheduled. We were supposed to have two games against the San Jose Sharks but they naturally could not make it in.
At one point during the week, we were told to evacuate the hotel because a plane was headed towards the airport but the towers could not get in contact with it. In the end they contacted the plane and it landed at the airport. Camp did begin in an attempt to bring a sense of normalcy to what we were doing up there, and the Blues decided to still play a scrimmage in front of a sold out crown in Anchorage.
I still have the newspapers from that week and it is sobering to take them out and look them over. It is impossible to imagine what those moments were truly like in New York Washington and Pennsylvania. It is impossible to imagine the horror of those that lived through it or watched as the terror unfolded. But I do know the profound impact it had on us in Alaska that week, and those thoughts and emotions will never be forgotten.