The St. Louis Blues brought David Backes home. The veteran forward signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the team to announce his retirement from hockey. Backes released a long letter to the organization and the fans of St. Louis, including an explanation of just why he has chosen to hang up the skates at this point:
"The game got faster and younger and I haven’t been associated with either of those adjectives in a long time.
"My final goal was to play 1,000 games, but I came up 35 short.
"In the end, it’s not that all these numbers don’t matter – they do, and I am damn proud of them. But 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."
Backes, 37, played a decade in St. Louis to start his career, ascending to the captaincy of the Blues by 2011. He scored 206 goals and 460 points in 727 regular-season games with the team but was unable to find much success in the postseason. In his time there the Blues reached the Western Conference Final just once, and by then he was already slowing down. In 2016 he was one of several high-profile free agents who signed expensive, long-term deals that failed to pan out as the league underwent a transformation toward youth and speed.
That second chapter of his career came in Boston, where he managed just 39 goals over 217 games, his declining speed slowly moving him further and further down the lineup. Always aware of his waning effectiveness, Backes decided to embrace a new role as a sort of enforcer for the Bruins by 2019, adding physicality and toughness to the fourth line.
When he was scratched more often than not during the first part of the 2019-20 season, the Bruins ended up trading Backes to the Anaheim Ducks, where he finished out his career with 21 appearances. That took the veteran forward to 965 games played, 35 short of his goal as he explained in his letter. Though he failed to win any major awards, Backes was a Selke Trophy finalist in 2012 and finished in the top five for that award four years in a row. A fan favorite in St. Louis, he’ll now be able to say he finished his career where it started.