Faith, Charity, and Community: Former Bruin David Backes

Bruins Notes: David Backes Plays Big Role In Return To Lineup Vs. Canadiens  - NESN.com
(Photo Credits: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sport)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @ pastagrl88

The St Louis Blues signed their former Captain and former Boston Bruins David Backes to a one-day contract so that he could officially retire as a Blue. Backes penned a heartfelt message to his fans as he thanked everyone that has influenced and helped his long career that spanned 15 years in the NHL. After spending 10 years with the Blues, Backes left the organization and signed with Bruins in 2016. Known for his tough grit and hard-nosed style of play, Backes was and is one of the league’s well-respected players. However, as the seasons went by, ice time diminished for the power forward and he subsequently became a healthy scratch. So when the veteran was put on waivers by Boston back in January 2020, it was no surprise that his time on Causeway Street was coming to an end.

Back where I belong | NHL.com
(Photo Credits: NHL.com)

Despite what many fans felt about the initial five-year, $30 million contract, or questioning whether or not it’s safe to push a player who may be one hit away from permanent damage, there was never any second-guessing when it came to his dedication to the game. It’s well documented what role the 37-year-old forward was willing to take as his options were becoming limited here in the latter part of his time with Boston. And in the locker room, the news of his departure was not met well with the players. The impact of Backes was felt deeply amongst his former teammates:

“He’s been such a great player in this league for a long time. Again, it’s the business side of things that’s really shitty. He’s been an incredible teammate. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s such a great person, a great friend and he’s going to be missed in this room. We relied on him a lot on and off the ice. He carried a lot of weight with the guys, so we’re going to miss him – no question. We love him here.”

Bruins Forward Brad Marchand

Bringing Charity To Boston

The very first time that Bruins fans got to meet David Backes was not inside a dressing room but during a tour of the MSPCA. From that moment on, it became clear exactly what was he was all about: rescuing animals. Meeting with the Boston media for the first time, he introduced fans to his charity that he and his wife Kelly founded: “Athletes for Animals” which helps “organizations across North America by pairing athletes with shelters and granting funds to rescue groups in need.” The Backes’ endeavors started in college and were amplified when they rescued Rodney, a severely abused and neglected dog from Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

(Photo Credits: Ozark Radio News)

During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Backes’ rescue efforts gained the national spotlight as they rescued and helped find homes for a couple of pups. The situation was horrific as reports spilled into the media that Russian authorities were rounding up and killing stray dogs prior to the Olympics. Local animal advocates mounted rescue efforts which inspired many athletes to adopt.

Another little tidbit-Backes loves to fly. He put that love into his passion for rescuing animals when back in 2013 when he flew into the Tri-States to bring back three neglected dogs to St. Louis. Both he and his wife Kelly flew in to help the West Hancock Canine Rescue, who work with no-kill shelters in finding homes for their rescues.

Whatever city the Backes’ landed in, their charitable efforts continued on–even during his season with the Anaheim Ducks. Last year he heavily supported the “Festival of Trees and Favorite Things Gift Boxes” that included gift items donated by several players throughout the NHL. The fundraiser benefitted the former Wilds forward Jason Zucker and his wife’s Carly “Give 16” charity and the “Athletes for Animals” foundation.

Charity Overseas

While attending college, his now wife Kelly had hearing loss and wears a hearing aid. Both she and David got in touch with the Starkey Hearing Foundation and traveled to Kenya to bring hearing aids to children living in the slums of Nairobi, where they personally fitted the devices for the children:

“We were able to serve these people, put our hands on them, show them that someone from halfway around the world cares about them. By giving them earmolds and hearing aids, we were able to take kids from deaf schools and assimilate them back into great communication with their families and friends. It opened up the possibilities of the world for them.”

Former Bruins Forward David Backes

Keeping God On His Side

An aspect of hockey fans don’t get to really hear about is the growing spirituality amongst players. After all, when you think of hockey, the image of the holy spirit doesn’t exactly come to mind. However, things evolve throughout the sport, and being more open about one’s belief is no longer hidden-players are more much open about their faith. An article written by CLNS’ own Evan Marinofsky, details just how that very faith helped many Bruins players through tough times.

Since 2015, many of the guys have gathered with team chaplain and head pastor at Crossway Christian Church Dave Ripper, where they talk about hockey, life, and Jesus. It started out as a small group with Ripper and former Bruins Adam McQuaid and steadily grew to include Torey Krug and Kevan Miller. But it wasn’t until the addition of, you guessed it, David Backes, that more players joined the group:

“He really brought a great influence to the team, and [we] saw a bunch more guys start to show up,”

Dave Ripper

For Backes, through the personal pain of not knowing whether his career was over and how injuries have impacted his gameplay over the years, faith helped him through his own thoughts. In the past Backes spoke about how ultimately he is not in control of which direction his life takes him:

“In my faith walk, I’ve needed to surrender and recognize He has a bigger plan for me. This is not my own will, and I am right where He wants me to be.”

And in the end, the Minnesota-native put it best as he summed up his farewell to the sport that he will always love and what meant most to him:

“…the metrics that mean the most to me are the countless experiences and everlasting relationships that the game provided me.

That’s what I find is beyond measure”.

Thank you, David

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