SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. forward David Backes might be hard on opposing players at this Olympic tournament -- we recall at one point during the Russia game on Saturday, Backes seemed to have both hands wrapped around Russian defenseman Fedor Tyutin's throat and was giving him a good throttling along the boards -- but he's got a soft spot for animals.
The St. Louis Blues' captain and his wife started the charity Athletes for Animals back home, and with hundreds of stray dogs roaming the Olympic areas in Sochi, he and some of the other athletes competing here are exploring the complicated adoption process of taking a few of those dogs back to North America.
"They kind of were portrayed a little bit as rabid animals that were dangerous," Backes said after the U.S.' practice Tuesday. "I don't know if anyone's seen that out of those animals. I think you've seen a lot of friendly, smart street dogs that have perhaps have had a tough life and had to find ways to get food and shelter and water and all that good stuff.
"For us to be able to give them a chance for a forever home and kind of live in that lap of luxury that a lot of dogs in North America have, if we can do that for a few of them and give them that little reprieve, it's a great opportunity for those dogs."
It would also go a long way to helping educate people globally about North Americans treat their animals.
"And maybe that's contagious as well," he said.
Backes and some of his U.S. teammates have heard from other athletes, not necessarily just those competing for the U.S.
"[W]e've kind of been able to network with some of the other wives and families, even if they're wearing different colors ... we've got some of the wives from Slovenia and Canada and all the different teams," Backes said. "That said, if there's anything we can help to get some of these dogs home, financially, put our voice out there, whatever, they're willing to do that.
"I think that's going to continue when we get back to the States to continue the messaging and continue to educate people on companion animals and all the things that go into ownership responsibilities and adoption and all that other good stuff."