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  • Saying Goodbye to Niklas Backstrom


    Goaltenders, by nature, are known as being an eccentric group. They have quirks, superstitions, and game day routines that can be confusing, confounding, and just plain odd. We in Minnesota have been blessed with several of these intriguing personalities including a couple of Americans, an abundance of Canadians, a pair of Russians, and a lone Finn. Their personalities have ranged from dangerously stoic to violently competitive (by kicking walls) to philanthropic ("is only game, why you heff to be mad?") to obsessively compulsive in their actions on and off the ice. But among all of that, one man stands alone as the franchise's most decorated and tenured veteran, and today that tenure has come to an end.


    Backstrom began his career in his home country of Finland, spending time in not only the Finnish professional league, SM-liiga, but also as a member of Finland's World Junior (U20) team and Finland's Olympic team, earning many honors along the way. Backstrom's professional career began at age 18 in 1996 for HIFK of SM-liiga, where he spent 4 years. He didn't see much action as a member of that team, but posted a very nice .932 SV% and 1.69 GAA in 16 games during the 1998-99 season. Backstrom won the gold medal prior to that season at the World Juniors as Finland's backup. He went on to play for a couple of other teams in SM-liiga, becoming a decorated veteran, twice being an all-star, twice earning the Jarri Kurri trophy for playoff MVP, twice capturing the Urpo Ylonen trophy for best goaltender, and capturing 2 SM-liiga championships. In 2005-06 he won a Bronze medal at the World Championships and a Silver Medal at the Olympics for Team Finland.

    While doing so, Backstrom has far surpassed his netminder peers in the Wild organization, holding the team lead in games played (409), wins (194), and shutouts (28) and no one is close in any of those categories. He has seen the Wild through several tough seasons and several successful ones, and helped provide stability to a team through coaching, management and ownership changes. His quirky personality did not allow him to interact with the media on game day, and his game-day warmup, aptly dubbed the "Turtle Walk", is a piece of Minnesota Hockey folklore. Though his most recent contract has been an albatross for the team and his last 3 seasons sullied with injuries, Backstrom had a remarkable career as a member of the Wild, and has earned his place in Wild history. Today marks the end of an era for this team, and we salute Niklas for all of the things he has done for the Wild and wish him well with his new club and his pending retirement.

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