Ralph Backstrom played on six Stanley Cup winning teams and was a fifteen-year coach at the NCAA and professional level. During his 38-year playing and coaching career, he registered 32 winning seasons, which included 35 years of playoff appearances.
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 1 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 being recognized and used throughout the world.
In the summer of 2007, Backstrom retired after 53 years in the game of hockey. He passed away on February 7, 2021, and leaves behind a lasting legacy of kindness, wisdom and love for the great sport of hockey.
Photo / Media Gallery: Remembering Ralph Backstrom
The man that brought hockey to Northern Colorado, Ralph Backstrom, retired as the Colorado Eagles' original president and general manager on July 31, 2007. Backstrom founded the Colorado Eagles of the Central Hockey League in 2002, and in 2003 the team began to play at the brand new Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.
In four seasons under Backstrom's guidance, the Eagles won the Northwest Division four times, two Governors' Cups as regular-season champions and two President's Cups as CHL championships.
Backstrom entered the world of professional hockey as a champion with the Stanley Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League in 1959, and he left the game as a champion with the Eagles winning their second President's Cup in 2007.
Backstrom's name will always be synonymous with the Colorado Eagles, and he was a vibrant part of the community that he and his wife, Janet, both loved.