Sean Backman ’10 has sick flow. Everyone can see it. All the hockey players aspire to it. But sick flow doesn’t refer to his status as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer or the left wing’s stylized moves on the rink. It’s another sort of style — his hair.
“It’s the ideal hockey hair,” said teammate Billy Blase ’10, explaining that just the right amount of wavy brown locks emerge from the back of Backman’s helmet.
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He went on to say that he’s “sick of hearing how good looking” Backman is, a sentiment shared by a modeling agent who approached the freshman standout after a game and offered him her card. But Backman’s looks have nothing on his skills on the ice.
Hockey was all the Greenwich, Conn., native knew growing up with his father, former NHL player Mike Backman.
“My dad put me on the ice when I was 18 months old,” Backman said.
Since then, the 20-year old’s father has been a consistent presence in his hockey life. The older Backman has been “everything” for his son. He coaches his son, attends every game, and makes sure to give a thorough critique after every one of his outings in Eli blue. Even after 16 years of competition, the forward still finds it helpful.
Having watched his son grow up on the ice, the senior Backman speaks well of Sean’s drive and skill.
“It’s a passion that he has to play the game,” he said. “His game has just gotten better at every level that he has attacked.”
The future Bulldog joined an organized hockey league at age four and has been playing competitively ever since. As a student at Avon Old Farms, a private school in Avon, Conn., where he transferred after his sophomore year of high school, Backman was named rookie of the year after his debut season and finished off his tenure as the team’s captain. He also led his team to back-to-back New England Championships.
When it came time to apply to college, Backman knew he wanted to play for Yale.
“I’d go to a lot of the Yale games when I was younger and it’s always been a dream of mine to come here,” Backman said.
It is also close enough that his family members are able to atend every game of the season.
But Backman did not go straight to college, instead taking a year off to play for the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League. This experience garnered him a bit of celebrity status in the town, where he was often recognized and asked to sign autographs.
Although Backman is already in his twenties in his first year at Yale, his teammates don’t seem to notice the gap.
“He’s older than about half the team, but he’s not condescending at all because of that,” Blase said.
In fact, his fellow Bulldogs speak the most of his generosity and athletic ability.
“He’s a pretty generous guy,” teammate Ryan Donald ’10 said. “He’ll buy pizza if you don’t have money, and I went to his house for Thanksgiving.”
Fellow lineman Mark Arcobello ’10 echoed Donald’s kind words about Backman.
“He’s a really great guy to be around,” he said. “He’s fun and he has a great sense of humor.”
But Arcobello added that Backman sometimes has a bit of trouble with directions. In the first two weeks of school, the freshman could not get from his college, Timothy Dwight, to Old Campus without a guide, Arcobello said. He even got lost on his way to Ingalls Rink.
On the ice, Backman needs a lot less guidance. In this arena, he is known for his experience and skill with and without the puck.
“He brings a great atmosphere to the rink,” Arcobello said. “He’s very energetic and vocal. You really know he’s out there.”
He also said the wing has a great slap shot and is quick on his feet. Blase commended Backman’s offensive awareness and work ethic. “He’s good at creating space, and he works hard on and off the ice,” he said.
Off the ice, Backman still can’t get enough hockey, trading in his stick and jersey for a Sega Genesis controller. He and his teammates play NHL ’96 and create their own players so they can compete as themselves.
“I’m a pretty one-dimensional guy,” Backman said with a chuckle.
With his humble outlook and unrelenting work ethic, this Yalie seems pretty content. Good looks, good friends, a supportive family and finely honed skills — he doesn’t need much more to make him happy.
“I play [hockey] because I love it. It’s what I do. It’s part of my life,” Backman said. “I’m just trying to take advantage of the experience.”
And if he needs anything to disrupt his sick flow, Arcobello claims that Backman only has the second-best chin beard on their line, so maybe that is something to aspire to.