As the NHL’s lockout drags on, and as more and more CBA offers get shot down or dismissed as nothingness by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, you’re going to see players in the press more. They all have their opinions regarding the lockout, the negotiations (or lack therof), the commish, and the whole situation. Some of them have been expressed eloquently, others over Twitter in 140 character bursts.
Hockey players have never been known for earth-shattering commentary. Post-game interviews are chock-full of stock statements like “we just really needed to come out skating the third period” or “[insert player's name]-ie was just absolutely clutch with his stickwork” or other gems like that. No one’s expected anything much different from the players during the lockout. A lot of the players’ve obliged, sticking with stock comments or paraphrases of whatever the official NHLPA statement du jour is.
David Backes is the exception to this. Always to be counted on for an intelligent interview before, during, or after a Blues game for a great interview, Backes has become extremely involved in the CBA talks from the players’ side. Backes’ interviews are always honest and straightforward, and always intelligent. He’s vocal about causes he believes in, especially animal welfare charities — so why would he be any less vocal when it comes to his job?
Backes has given two major interviews as of late. One was with Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, in which he shows his lack of optimism pre-latest CBA offer. In this interview, he says:
“I have not succumbed to the notion that there’s not going to be a season,” he said. “But at the same time, I was in the room all day today … From where it sits right now, it’s not looking like we need to be skating five days a week and getting ready for a camp anytime soon.”
His use of the word “succumbed” is interesting; most people would have used “given in.” A word like “succumbed” really gives what Backes is saying more emotion, more urgency, and almost a hint of violence. You don’t “succumb” to having a doughnut, you “succumb” to a disease. That’s a good analogy for this lockout.
His latest interview, after the NHL’s latest CBA draft was released but before the league shot down the NHLPA’s counter-offers, was with radio host Josh Rimer. Backes managed to strike a tone that was out of step with several other players, and more along the lines of fans’ reaction to the document: cautious optimism.
“Right now, it’s anyone’s guess. Beginning today, I think it was in the back of my mind that we’re either going to make a lot of progress this week and get something done, or we’re headed down a road that no one wants to go down, and that’s a big cancellation of games and perhaps really bunkering each side in and potentially losing a full season,” said Backes.
Backes’ response isn’t about seeing the silver lining in the CBA proposal, it is about seeing the reality. It’s not spin, it’s not what Donald Fehr has said, but rephrased. It’s straight talk, and Backes’ straight talk is something Blues fans have been used to for years.