David Backes went to Sochi hoping to bring back some stories. Instead, he brought back a couple of stray puppies.
The St. Louis Blues' captain, who played for the U.S. in the 2014 Winter Olympics, and his wife Kelly rescued the dogs from the streets of the Russian city with members of the Canadian team's entourage. Now in quarantine in St. Louis, the dogs will eventually be given to good homes.
"We're just trying to widen our scope to help animals across the [U.S.] and across the world, and doing what we can," Backes said Tuesday.
Backes said he and his wife did not originally intend to bring any animals back. They were hoping to create awareness about shelters that have been set up in Sochi to help hundreds of stray dogs that have received international media coverage.
"She doesn't take no very lightly," he said. "So when she saw those two pups and a few more, she said we've gotta do something to get these out of here and tell their story and broaden the awareness of some of the mistreatment of animals - and just the difference in [how] they treat their companion animals and we treat ours."
The Backes, who have four rescue dogs and two rescue cats in their home set up their own foundation, Athletes for Animals, last November, received helped from Canadian winger Jeff Carter's girlfriend Megan Keffer and defenceman Drew Doughty's girlfriend Nicole Arruda and others. The three-to-four-month-old pups, named Sochi Junior and Sochi Jake, were brought back to the U.S. on an Air Atlas charter to Newark and another flight to St. Louis.
"They fought for their lives every day on the street and now they're laying on our laps in flights across the Atlantic," said Backes.
Approval for their U.S. trip was only granted Saturday when "there were tears" of joy in the Backes' group. The pups slept in carriers on the Sochi-Newark leg and then were taken out on the Newark-St. Louis leg.
"It's like a baby sleeping," said Backes. "Don't disturb them when they're resting. It was a very peaceful flight."
The two male "purebred mutts" befriended the Backes and others while hanging around and looking for scraps at a resort where players and their families stayed. Soon, said Backes, they were getting bathed in a hotel tub and sleeping in its rooms.
"Once you hang around with a little pup that long, they grow on you and you try and do everything you can for them," said Backes.