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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Colorado Eagles Founder, Hockey Legend Ralph Backstrom Passes Away

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WINDSOR, Colo.–The Colorado Eagles are sad to announce the passing of team founder Ralph Backstrom, who passed away Sunday at the age of 83. Backstrom founded the Colorado Eagles in 2002 and served as team president from 2003 to 2007. He played on six Stanley Cup winning teams with the Montreal Canadiens and was a fifteen-year coach at the NCAA and professional level. Backstrom was elected to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and was awarded the ECHL’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 in recognition of a career spent growing the great sport of hockey.

“Ralph Backstrom was the most honorable gentleman I’ve ever encountered in my professional life and he was single-handedly responsible for professional hockey in Northern Colorado,” said Eagles owner and CEO Martin Lind. “We all are forever indebted to this legacy of a gentleman and we pray his family has peace and comfort in this difficult time.”

A native of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Backstrom was the captain of the 1958 Memorial Cup Champion Ottawa-Hull Junior Canadiens and was voted by the media as the best junior player in the country. The following year, he signed with the Montreal Canadiens, won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, and helped capture his first Stanley Cup championship. His name was inscribed on the Stanley Cup five more times before being traded to Los Angeles in 1971. There are only nine players in Stanley Cup competition — dating back to 1893 — who have won more than six Stanley Cups.

Backstrom was traded to Chicago after two seasons in Los Angeles and led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals. He then signed with the World Hockey Association, playing for Chicago, Denver, and the New England Whalers. One of his greatest moments came in 1974 when he was voted MVP for Team Canada in the Canada Cup Series vs. the Soviet National Team. Among the illustrious names on that team were Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and Frank Mahovlich. Backstrom’s career scoring record (NHL & WHA) combined total is: Games Played-1336, Goals-378, Assists-514, PTS-892.

After playing 15 years in the NHL and four years in the WHA, Backstrom entered the coaching field in 1977 as assistant coach at the University of Denver. Following a brief tenure as L.A. Kings assistant coach, Backstrom returned to Denver as Head Coach. He assembled a winning record in nine seasons with the Pioneers and led the school to the WCHA title and NCAA Hockey Final Four in 1986. Backstrom was named NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year for his efforts, winning the Spencer Penrose Award.

After two years coaching the Phoenix Roadrunners of the International Hockey League, Backstrom co-founded Roller Hockey International (RHI) in 1992. He was responsible for creating the playing rules for professional roller hockey, which are now recognized and used throughout the world.  

In the summer of 2007, Backstrom retired after 53 years in the game of hockey. He is survived by his wife Janet, daughter Diana and sons Andrew and Martin.

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

  • 2002-2007 – President/General Manager, Colorado Eagles of the Central Hockey League
  • 1999-2002 – Special Assignment Scout, St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League
  • 1992-1999 – Senior V.P. and Commissioner of Roller Hockey International, Inc.
  • 1990-1992 – Head Coach, Phoenix Roadrunners of the International Hockey League
  • 1981-1990 – Head Coach, University of Denver of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association
  • 1980-1981 – Assistant Coach, Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League
  • 1977-1980 – Assistant Coach, University of Denver of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association
  • 1958-1977 – Player in the National Hockey League (15 years) and the World Hockey Association (4 years)

MAJOR HONORS RECEIVED

  • Memorial Cup Championship with Ottawa-Hull Junior Canadiens, 1958
  • Calder Trophy as Rookaie of the Year in the National Hockey League, 1959
  • Six Stanley Cup Championships with the Montreal Canadiens: 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969
  • Four World Hockey Association All-Star Game Appearances
  • Most Valuable Player for Team Canada in the Canada Cup Series vs. the Soviet Union, 1974
  • NCAA Division I, National Coach of the Year, 1986 (Spencer Penrose Award)
  • President/GM, President’s Cup Champion Colorado Eagles in the Central Hockey League, 2005 & 2007
  • Elected to the Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame in October 2008
  • Presented with ECHL’s Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2013

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