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Magazine > Lifestyle

Capital City Slickers
The Fourth Period Magazine :: Spring 2010 Issue
By Corey Masisak

After a wintery month that was more Winnipeg than Washington, car aficionado Mike Green is eager to hop in his most recent addition and take advantage of the first warm day in weeks.

Practice is over for the young Washington Capitals star, but he must first navigate several dozen fans pining for his signature before an afternoon drive in his black Bentley Continental GT beckons. This Capitals team, flush with precocious talents like Green, Nicklas Backstrom and of course the incomparable Alex Ovechkin, has vaulted to the top of the NHL and collected vast numbers of new fans in this city along the way.

Green patiently signs for nearly every person, young and old, who waited in the parking lot outside the team’s practice facility in Arlington, Va. After he was done and shuffled towards his car, several sets of eyes gazed with wonder – not at the approachable hockey savant, but at his beautiful new ride.

“I just really enjoy cars and have always been a fanatic, whether it is putting on wheels on a car or something like that – I just love them,” Green said. “This car is my favourite by far. Well, so far.”

This town has three professional sports teams with recent results that are more laughable than lovable. But then there are the Capitals, who not only win but do so with panache. Ovechkin earns plenty of deserved credit, but Green and Backstrom have developed into world-class sidekicks – both on and off the ice.

While they are young, Green, 24, and Backstrom, 22, are among the best in the sport at their positions, and are enjoying the spoils that can bring them. Fast cars, designer clothes, extravagant homes – they are loving life in the U.S. capital.

“They’re both young guys with wallets full of money and they enjoy the finer things,” teammate Brooks Laich said. “It is their way of exuding their personality. I think they have fun with it and they look good.”

Backstrom is still the quiet guy in the group. He’s not the shy kid from Sweden who hung out at Michael Nylander’s house during his rookie season anymore, but Backstrom is still a little more grounded than Green and especially Ovechkin.

His clothing choices aren’t as flashy, but don’t mistake him for being conservative.

“You have to look at the name brands on his clothes, because he is a name brand guy,” Green said. “If you look at his outfits, sometimes he’s got three-to-four thousand dollars worth of gear on and people don’t notice that.”

Added Backstrom: “I would say I definitely have more of a European style. The jeans are a little bit tighter, and all my suits are a little bit tighter. I think everyone has their own style though.”
The smooth-skating Swedish centreman has a penchant for racking up assists on the ice and finding breaks from the hustle and bustle of the most powerful city in the world. He enjoys hanging with friends in Georgetown on days off, but Backstrom has a little speed junkie in him as well.

Backstrom was part of a crew of Capitals (that included Green and Ovechkin, of course) who spent an afternoon during training camp racing high-performance go-karts. He’s also not hurting for horsepower in his Mercedes SL63 AMG.

“I just felt like I wanted to have one sports car and one a little bigger,” said Backstrom, who also owns a Mercedes SUV. “I just figured out that I like Mercedes and it is a great car. It is too bad you can’t drive like we’re in Germany on the Autobahn ... but I can find some places where I can try.”

Backstrom’s place in Arlington is pretty modest, especially compared to the penthouse Green moved into and spruced up last summer (no outdoor hot tub with a projection screen to watch movies like Green’s pad, for instance).

He is in the final year of his rookie contract and has yet to ink the lavish extension that awaits him. He doesn’t want to discuss what might be the first purchase after signing a deal that will likely secure his financial future. Backstrom could become his country’s biggest star, a position once held by the likes of Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin, but he remains humble and not willing to assume what others see as inevitable.

Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green posing in exclusive photo shoot for The Fourth Period Magazine.That said, Backstrom has begun building a house in his hometown of Gavle, Sweden, and it will not be quite as reserved as his American apartment.

“It is going to be a real toy house,” he says with a sly smile.

Green landed his first mega contract in July 2008, a four-year, $21 million pact. Growing up in Calgary, Green was not a product of privilege like so many hockey players tend to be.

“I think it has been overwhelming at times,” Green said. “Growing up without money – not without money but sometimes with very little – my parents had to work very hard. Sometimes they had up to three jobs to support us. That is something I don’t want for my kids, and I have an incredible opportunity now to live this life I wanted when I was younger.”

This life has presented Green with a bit of an enviable dilemma. As previously mentioned, he loves his cars. Many kids have a favourite growing up – just as Green idolized defencemen Paul Coffey and Bobby Orr, he had one sports car in mind.

Shortly after Green signed his new deal, that car – a white Lamborghini Gallardo – was his. The problem is Green soon realized he needed something more practical, hence the sparkling new Bentley.

“It is hard to drive the Lambo around here in Arlington and downtown. The roads aren’t that great, so I needed something new,” Green said. “I’m thinking of selling it, but it is hard for me because I am such a car guy. Just as a kid, it was my dream car and right after I signed my contract and knew I was going to be here for a while I went out and treated myself. I’ve had fun with it but I don’t know what I am going to do with it. I’ll probably end up keeping it because it is such a sick car and it has been my dream car since I was young.”

Those aren’t the only two vehicles in the Green collection. He also boasts a pair of Cadillac Escalades. One is black with a touch of red. The other is white and to help reduce his carbon footprint, a hybrid.

“I needed a truck for at home and instead of shipping it back and forth, I just left [the black one] there,” Green said. “I really like the Escalade because it is comfortable and roomy. It is just a great truck.”

Most likely content with his automobiles, Green may look to the water for his next big purchase. When Green returned to training camp before last season, one item on his wish list was a boat for his friends in Alberta to take wakeboarding.

Consider that mission not accomplished to this point, though.

“No, not yet,” he said with a sigh. “I want to but I don’t know a lot about boats. I rented a few last summer to try them out, and I may end up buying one this summer.”

Green is the league’s best offensive defenceman, likely to lead the NHL in goals at his position for a third straight season and points for a second consecutive campaign. He loves to carry the puck, and his creative forays into the offensive end can be high-risk but also offer significant value to Washington’s high-flying offence.

He is similarly inventive when it comes to deciding what clothes to wear. Hard to pigeon-hole, Green’s wardrobe draws from a few genres.

“It is unique, but it fits his personality,” Laich said. “He’s edgy and a little wild. Some days it is very interesting – almost like an art class sort of thing. Some days you kind of wonder, ‘If he bought that, I hate to see the one he didn’t buy.’ ”

Much of Green’s taste in clothes comes from his days spent as a kid on a skateboard. When he was signing autographs that sunny day in Arlington, he did so while sporting a simple, black DC Shoes shirt and backwards New York Yankees hat (for the record, Green says he’s a Nationals fan but the cap from the Bronx “looks good”).

He is a frequent shopper at underground boutiques where custom shoes and shirt designs are sought-after commodities.

“His style is getting better,” Backstrom said. “When I first came here he was all about the skateboard style, and he still has that but I’ve been getting him into a little bit tighter suits and he’s picking it up.”

Both Backstrom and Green have moved beyond just being the other kids hoping to help Ovechkin turn Washington into a winner. The Capitals hope to cement their status as a league superpower this spring with a deep post-season run.

If it happens, it won’t just be the flashy, fun-loving Ovechkin who receives all the attention – though he might deserve a tiny bit of credit for helping Backstrom and Green develop their sense of style away from the rink.

“I think Alex is an extremist,” Green said. “Anything he does has to be the extreme level, whether it his cars or his clothes. I think that’s just Alex, and he pushes the envelope for other guys to step their game up.”



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