Catrin Backstrom has always put her sons first, driving them to every hockey practice when they were younger, and it was no different when she got some devastating news three years ago. Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was in the middle of a playoff run, so she kept her diagnosis of breast cancer a secret until his season was over.
“So I can focus on hockey,” he said. “I think it was the right thing to do, but it caught me off guard. You hear so much about it, but when you and your family is affected by it, it comes as a shock.”
Catrin has been cancer-free for a year now, but that experience stayed with Backstrom, who has a new appreciation for the fight it takes to beat the disease and the fear that can ripple through a family when a loved one is diagnosed. As part of the Capitals' Hockey Fights Cancer night Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Backstrom will wear lavender skate blades in warmups before the game that he will sign and auction off, with proceeds going to Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Flashes of Hope. The auction will run through the second intermission of Washington’s game against Columbus; Backstrom’s auction listing can be viewed here.
For Backstrom, it’s a way to honor his mother with her in town for the game.
“She had to go through a tough time,” he said. “I feel like it’s important to show her my support. It’ll be a surprise for her. . . . I have so much to pay back to her for everything she did for us, me and my brother, when we were younger, and all she sacrificed, driving us to the rink every time. If my dad was working, she was the one taking care of us. I’m very close to my mom, and I’m lucky about that, and I’m happy about that.”
Two years ago, when she was still going through treatment, Capitals players wore lavender Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys during warmups, and Backstrom had “Catrin” as his nameplate on the back, as did fellow Swedes Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson. He was the one who approached the Capitals suggesting an auction for the custom skate blades with his name, number and the Hockey Fights Cancer logo printed on them. Catrin won her battle with cancer, and now Backstrom wants to help others do the same.
“It’s just a hard thing to do, I think, to have that on your mind and the possibilities,” Backstrom said. “For a person who hasn’t had it, I think it’s really hard to understand it. I just asked her, and she’s the kind of person that she’s always happy and smiling, but she was thinking a lot about it and doing research. But I mean, she did a good job, and she was staying positive.”