Downtime no downer for Backlund

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

CALGARY - The world championships.

Some rest and relaxation at a cabin by a lake in Sweden.

The tourist thing in California, including famous sites such as Santa Monica Pier, Disneyland, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and Universal Studios.

Talk about the perfect summer.

It was for Mikael Backlund.

The Calgary Flames centre finished his first full NHL season in the spring and had a golden time readying for year two.

Dont think for a second Backlund wasnt preparing himself physically (I saw Brent Sutter, and he said Ive lost the baby fat, he said). But he ensured he was recovered from the rigours of his most demanding hockey season yet.

Oh, yeah, he made one other big change to his off-season training.

Backlund, who will be given a serious look at top-line duty with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, stayed off the blades until August.

The last couple of years,

I was skating in July, and when camp would come, Id be sick of it, Backlund said. This time, I waited a few weeks, and thats made me extra excited.

Backlund went to the world championships for Sweden and collected three goals and five points in nine games in his countrys silver-medal winning performance.

He returned to Sweden for a week, spent a week in California then was back to Calgary for the first half of June and started his training plan with Flames strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh.

Then, it was more than seven weeks back in Sweden, where among all the other aspects of life he sold his condominium to sister, Madelene, which was a nice way to give his sister a start in life.

In Sweden, if you own a place, you still have to pay rent. The rent is so much cheaper if you own the place, Backlund explained.

As much time as possible was spent at his fathers cabin near Leksands, a calming place beside a lake on his grandfathers land.

Its beautiful there really nice. We spent mid-summer there its a big celebration in Sweden, Backlund said. Its on a farm, old-school Sweden, with red houses and by a lake. Its calming and relaxing. I want to spend more time there next summer.

Sweden is beautiful in the summer.

Go through his Twitter page and check out the photos to see how stunning it really is. You can also follow his exploits, including a few miniature-golf outings including one on his sisters birthday and the classic shot of him looking like a tourist at the Santa Monica Pier.

Early August meant another trip across the Atlantic, this time to California to catch up with his other sister, Malin, who moved there in the spring.

Coincidentally, he was able to hook up with former Flames teammate Eric Nystrom amidst his workouts.

I love the atmosphere there. Its really calm and relaxing, Backlund said of the area.

Summer also meant other new experiences for the 22-year-old.

His girlfriend, Amy, introduced him to camping in the Rocky Mountains, and hes learning the North American male bastion of working a barbecue.

Now, its time to get back to hockey.

Coming off a 10-goal, 25-point season, the team has high hopes for the 2007 first-round draft choice.

He does, too.

My goal is to keep playing like I did at the end of the year and keep playing better. Hopefully, Ill help the team more, Backlund added.

Even though I did all that stuff, I was working really hard and want to do better.


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