The past couple of hockey seasons, Alexander Ovechkin has played the role of gracious host at his Arlington home for the organization’s young Russian prospects. He will likely do so again this fall, offering home-cooked meals, sight-seeing excursions, that sort of thing. With the arrival this autumn of a modest contingent of young Swedes for rookie and training camps, Nicklas Backstrom is playing a similar role with his younger countrymen.
Back in July, during Capitals’ Development Camp, Backstrom offered his apartment to Marcus Johansson, the team’s first-round pick from 2009, and regularly checked in on the first-year pro to see how he was navigating his first extended stay in Washington and immersion in pro hockey in North America. Last week, he arranged a special outing not long after a Swedish contingent of first-round picks arrived from overseas.
Anton Gustafsson and Marcus Johansson arrived in D.C. last week, and one of their first orders of business in town was taking in Monday night’s headliner of a college football game at FedEx Field, between Virginia Tech and Boise State, tickets for which Backstrom secured. Backstrom has been something of a fixture at FedEx Field for Redskins’ games, even serving as a field reporter there for Comcast. And he’s been part of a football-uniformed contingent of Caps who’ve lined up for field goal tries at the field. So it’s natural he’d share his new sports passion with his newly arrived countrymen.
For Gustafsson and Johansson, the outing represented their first-ever glimpse of American football.
“It was awesome,” Johansson said after Sunday morning’s first skate of the 2010 Capitals’ Rookie Camp. “You never get to see something like that in Sweden. It was really loud. We wanted to sit up high [in the stadium] and see everything. I understood most of the rules.”
Johansson has quickly taken a liking to his new home, the American capital. Backstrom has shown him around town a bit, and he’s also taken a guided tour.
“It’s not the kind of big city I thought it would be,” the soon-to-be 20-year-old center said, alluding to the absence of skyscrapers in the District. “But I love it.”