Morning Free Association: January 10

Ahead of tonights matchup in St. Louis, Amalie Benjamin wrote about David Backes’ emotional return to the team that drafted him, the city where he grew up playing hockey.

One of Backes’ concerns when he suffered a concussion, the third documented of his career, was that he might not make it back to the lineup before that game. However, it was clear that he wasn’t going to rush himself back, no matter how much he wanted to play.

“I think health is first and foremost,” Backes said. “If I were to miss that game, then there’s maybe next [year] or whenever; it’ll happen sooner or later. But I think once your health’s in order, it’s back on the radar. There’s certainly not a chance I’d be pushing it to get back extra early to go play in that game. You get one brain. It’s not worth it.”

The significance of his return to St. Louis is not lost on Backes, nor his former team, the Blues. It turns out that they saved their annual charity event, one that he started with his wife (their charity work truly is fantastic), Barkin’ for the Blues for his return, so he would be able to take part.

He would really show them that Tuesday, though, he knew. He has seen players come back to their former teams, seen the receptions, the video tributes, the responses. He knows some of that might be waiting for him. He knows that the Blues saved their annual charity event “Barkin’ for Blues,” one started by Backes and his wife to benefit Athletes for Animals, for Jan. 10, when he would be back in town to share it.

He knows there will be feelings.

“As if we didn’t need any more emotion thrown into it, that [event] is going to be that night, and my wife and daughter are flying in,” Backes said. “There will be plenty going through your head, but like when [the Blues] were here, I want to stay in the moment, I want to enjoy every second of it.”

Of course, this visit to St. Louis will be involve getting together with former teammates, other friends from St. Louis and he recognizes that he will not get to spend the appropriate amount of time with everyone as he would like:

“I’ve had so many people reach out to me already to ask me what my time’s being consumed by while I’m in town and trying to reconnect and all those great relationships that we made while we were there, trying to get a little piece of that,” Backes said.

“It’s kind of analogous to my wedding day, when you’ve got 300 people that you want to spend time with, all of them at once, but you only have so much time to allocate and how you’re going to divvy that up. In the end, I imagine it’s going to be a similar feeling where it’s like, whew, that went by so fast. I didn’t get to talk to that person or that person or that person. In the end, it’s enjoyable, but it’s never long enough to really connect again with everybody that was so kind to me in 10 years.”

Of course, when it comes time for the video tribute, David will prepare himself as much as possible:

“That might put me over the top, no matter what’s happening in the moment,” Backes said. “May need a couple shifts off from Claude [Julien].”

Maybe a tissue stashed on the bench, it is suggested.

“Maybe,” he said, “a full Gatorade towel.”

Other Davids return from concussion on Saturday has brought new life to the team. He scored a goal in each of the back-to-back games this weekend, bringing his season total to 11. Hopefully, he scores at least one more against his former team tonight.

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