ST. LOUIS — In the last 20 years or so of St. Louis sports, there have been few athletes more universally beloved than David Backes. It was clear just how much St. Louis loves Backes after the emotional send off the fans gave him when he was back in town this past week for his likely final game not only at Enterprise Center, but as a professional hockey player.
It's not official yet, but Backes, 37, is likely set to retire at the end of the 2021 season.
And although he ended his career with Boston and Anaheim, St. Louis will always remember him as their captain. Backes joined 5 On Your Side's Frank Cusumano for Sunday night's Sports Plus to talk about his career, Blues memories and what might be next.
Backes oversaw a period of exciting times for the Blues, helping the team reach the playoffs six times during his stay in St. Louis. And on a Saturday night with the Blues in contention, there was no better place to be than Enterprise Center.
"It was the best. The fans giving us tons of energy knowing that they would cheer as loud for a big hit as they would for a goal. And just wanted to give them a win first and foremost, but a great show and to pummel our opposition into submission. Goosebumps right now thinking about it," Backes said.
Backes never got to raise a Cup in his career, but he came close a few times. In St. Louis, the 2016 Conference Final loss to the Sharks was the biggest heartbreaker and was also his last hurrah with the Blues.
"We finally broke through that barrier that seemed to keep us down. We ran into so many good teams in the second round and we finally got into that conference final and were rolling... I thought that was the year," Backes said. "Unfortunately it wasn't. Thus the interview with the tears and all of the emotions pouring out of me."
Backes also came close in 2019 as a member of the Boston Bruins, going up against his old team in St. Louis.
"I loved the City of St. Louis and I loved the Blues but they were standing between me and one of my dreams to hoist that Cup," Backes said.
He didn't play in every game that series, and the Blues ended up winning the Cup, but Backes did make his presence known thanks to a bone-rattling hit on Sammy Blais in Game 2.
With Backes' future on the ice as a pro seemingly near the end, the question turns to "What's next"? While he said he and his wife have talked about everything from him staying home with their kids while she pursues some of her dreams, to him going to law school and getting a degree, the future still remains in flux.
However, Backes does know how he hopes to be remembered for his time in the NHL.
"If it's something along the lines of 'Led by example and left everything out there every night', add on what you wish. Those were my core principles of team first and left everything out on the ice every single shift," Backes said. "If I didn't get a job done it certainly wasn't for lack of effort or lack of desire or drive. It may have been from lack of skill, but that would be it and I can be proud of that."