Dear David Backes, There’s More To Hockey Than Dropping The Gloves

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 6: David Backes
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 6: David Backes /

The Boston Bruins 6 million dollar man David Backes has had a rocky start to his black and gold career to say the least. The Bruins forward has suffered at least 3 concussions since signing his 5 year, $30 million contract back on July 1st of 2016, and only cracked the 70 game mark once which was his first season with the club. Along with his injury issues, Backes has failed to reach the 40 point mark in his 3 seasons in Boston and if anyone knows anything about this fan base its that expectations are high and at 6 million dollars a season that just isn’t good enough. So here we are in the present and Backes is literally fighting to stay in the lineup. The Bruins forward confirmed that he did meet with head coach Bruce Cassidy and let him know that he is dying to be  a big contributor to this team, and sees fighting as a way to keep his roster spot. Here is my issue with this:

First and foremost his health is my greatest concern, the 34 year old has had 3 concussions in the last two and a half years. As we have seen across the sports world, the long-term effects of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy ) and what it can do to your life whether it’s your every day functionality or your mental health — the damage can be substantial and even sometimes fatal. The fact of the matter is David, you have your whole life ahead of you.

Pride is a word that many men — especially athletes — take very seriously and it’s understandable. Growing up playing sports, I know that no one wants to ride the pine or be on the sidelines, but there are other ways for him to make an impact on this team while not risking his long-term health. Backes knows he is not living up to his 6 million dollar price tag, the fact that he has openly dismissed the concussion risk is a terrifying thought and one that I believe is just plain wrong. For Bruins fans its easy to embrace this new-found enforcer role and if any fan base appreciates that style of play it’s the fans in Boston. That said , how much is he willing to risk to keep doing what he loves? There is a good life after hockey for a guy like Backes who has always played the game with integrity and heart which lead him to an NHL All-star game appearance as well as a silver medal representing team USA in the 2010 Olympic Games . I strongly believe this enforcer role is foolish and I would hate to see pride cost Backes his long-term future.

I understand the urgency to keep your roster spot but from a team stand point, Backes getting into fights should be irrelevant. Once forwards Sean Kuraly (concussion) and David Pastrnak (thumb) return to the Bruins lineup, I just don’t see where Backes fits on the playoff roster. The playoffs are a completely different animal and fighting hardly has any place in the games come April’s race to the Stanley Cup. Instead of fighting I would like to see Backes work on foot speed and shooting drills, honestly working on anything that doesn’t risk his future. I’m very aware that in Boston this very well may come as an unpopular opinion but all I can say to that is a players long-term health is much more important than a game. Right or wrong, Backes will continue to do what he wants to do and I admire the hell out of the guy for being willing to do what he can for his team, but at what point is the price to steep to pay? Backes the enforcer gets a thumbs down from me.