Ralph Backstrom

Ralph Gerald Backstrom (September 18, 1937 – February 7, 2021) was a Canadian professional ice hockey centre and later a coach, entrepreneur and hockey executive. He played in the National Hockey League with the Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, and Chicago Black Hawks between 1956 and 1973. He also played in the World Hockey Association with the Chicago Cougars, Denver Spurs/Ottawa Civics, and New England Whalers from 1973 to 1977. With the Canadiens, he won the Stanley Cup six times, and won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year in 1959. After retiring he served as head coach of the University of Denver Pioneers for several years in the 1980s.

Ralph Backstrom
Chex Ralph Backstrom.jpg
Backstrom with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1960s
Born (1937-09-18)September 18, 1937
Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
Died February 7, 2021(2021-02-07) (aged 83)
Windsor, Colorado, U.S.
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 165 lb (75 kg; 11 st 11 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Left
Played for Montreal Canadiens
Los Angeles Kings
Chicago Black Hawks
Chicago Cougars
Denver Spurs
Ottawa Civics
New England Whalers
National team  Canada
Playing career 1956–1977

Playing careerEdit

Backstrom played junior hockey from 1954 to 1958, with the Montreal Junior Canadiens, which relocated and was renamed the Ottawa-Hull Canadiens in 1956. He was captain of the team that won the George Richardson Memorial Trophy in 1957 and the Memorial Cup in 1958.[1]

As a professional, Backstrom joined the Montreal Canadiens for the 1958–59 season and was selected the NHL's top rookie, receiving the Calder Memorial Trophy.[2] He played in Montreal for 12 full seasons, winning six Stanley Cups and appearing in six National Hockey League All-Star Games (1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1965, 1967).[3] After the 1969–70 season, Backstrom requested a trade and talked about retiring. He reported to training camp, but left the team just before the season opened. After returning to the Canadiens, Backstrom spent most of his time on the bench until being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in January 1971.[4] Just over two years later, he was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks for Dan Maloney and finished the 1972–73 season there.[3]

Backstrom then jumped to the World Hockey Association and joined the Chicago Cougars, where he played for two years, and later became a part-owner of the team.[5] In his first season, he led the Cougars in scoring with 33 goals and 83 points in 70 games. He also represented Canada at the 1974 Summit Series on an all-star team of Canadian WHA players. His offensive production dropped sharply in 1974–75 and at the end of the season the new Denver Spurs selected Backstrom in the WHA's expansion draft. Backstrom was the team's top scorer, but the franchise struggled, and a move to Ottawa—where the team was renamed the Ottawa Civics—did not help. The franchise ceased operations 41 games into the season.[6] Backstrom finished the season with the New England Whalers, scoring 35 goals and 83 points over the year. He played one more year with New England and retired in 1977. He would have turned 40 before the start of the next season. Through his professional career, Backstrom had seven 20-goal seasons in the NHL and two 30-goal seasons in the WHA.[3]

CoachingEdit

Immediately after his retirement Backstrom accepted an offer to join the staff of newly appointed University of Denver head coach Marshall Johnston as an assistant.[7] Three years later Backstrom returned to the NHL as an assistant for the Los Angeles Kings but only stayed for one season before rejoining Denver, this time as the bench boss after Johnston left to join the NHL's Colorado Rockies. Backstrom led the Pioneers through a few lean years in the early 1980s before having a breakout season in 1985–86 when he led Denver to a team record 34-win season, including a conference regular season title, a conference tournament title (their first in 13 years) and reached the team's first Frozen Four since finishing second in 1973.[8] Backstrom earned the Spencer Penrose Award, as national coach of the year, for the impressive season.[9] However, the team was unable to sustain the high level of play for the remainder of his tenure. Backstrom resigned after the 1989–90 season, turning the team over to Frank Serratore.[8]

Backstrom jumped into the professional ranks in 1990–91 when he took over the Phoenix Roadrunners. After a good first season,[10] including pushing the number-one seeded Peoria Rivermen to a seventh game in the Turner Cup semifinals,[11] Phoenix dropped to dead last in the 10-team league.[12] Backstrom subsequently resigned as coach.[13]

Front officeEdit

Backstrom, along with Dennis Murphy and Larry King, founded Roller Hockey International and served as commissioner for a time. It soon became apparent that the league was in financial trouble and it suspended the entire 1998 season before playing one final campaign in 1999. While the league did not officially disband until 2001, Backstrom returned to the NHL in 1999–00 as a scout for the St. Louis Blues.[14]

After three seasons with the Blues, Backstrom founded a new CHL team called the Colorado Eagles in 2002.[15] He owned the team, was general manager and president for the first three seasons, including a CHL championship in 2004–05. His Eagles finished atop their division six times, made the finals five times, and won the Ray Miron President's Cup twice in eight seasons before moving to the ECHL in 2011–12.[16]

Awards and achievementsEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Backstrom's parents were both born near Vaasa in Finland, and met in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.[18] He was a cousin of NHL player Daren Puppa.[3] He was not related to goalie Niklas Bäckström, nor centre Nicklas Bäckström.[3]

Backstrom married his first wife, Frances Richard, in April 1961.[19] He married his second wife, Janet, in 1985.[20] They remained married until his death. He had three children: Martin, Diana, and Andrew.[21]

Backstrom died after a long illness on February 7, 2021, aged 83, in his Windsor, Colorado, home.[14] Backstrom's brain was donated for study to researchers at Boston University and it was found that Backstrom had been suffering from stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy at the time of his death.[22]

Career statisticsEdit

Source:[3]

Regular season and playoffsEdit

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1954–55 Montreal Jr. Canadiens QJHL 21 7 6 13 2 5 2 1 3 4
1955–56 Montreal Jr. Canadiens QJHL 18 10 8 18 4
1955–56 Montreal Jr. Canadiens M-Cup 10 5 4 9 6
1956–57 Ottawa-Hull Canadiens OHA-Jr. 18 10 8 18 4
1956–57 Ottawa-Hull Canadiens EOHL 18 7 10 17 4
1956–57 Montreal Canadiens NHL 3 0 0 0 0
1956–57 Ottawa-Hull Canadiens M-Cup 15 17 11 28 19
1957–58 Rochester Americans AHL 2 0 0 0 0
1957–58 Ottawa-Hull Canadiens OHA-Jr. 26 24 27 51 64
1957–58 Ottawa-Hull Canadiens EOHL 33 21 25 46 13
1957–58 Montreal Royals QHL 1 0 1 1 0
1957–58 Ottawa-Hull Canadiens M-Cup 13 17 9 26 24
1958–59 Montreal Canadiens NHL 64 18 22 40 19 11 3 5 8 12
1959–60 Montreal Canadiens NHL 64 13 15 28 24 7 0 3 3 2
1960–61 Montreal Canadiens NHL 69 12 20 32 44 5 0 0 0 4
1961–62 Montreal Canadiens NHL 66 27 38 65 29 5 0 1 1 6
1962–63 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 23 12 35 51 5 0 0 0 2
1963–64 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 8 21 29 41 7 2 1 3 8
1964–65 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 25 30 55 41 13 2 3 5 10
1965–66 Montreal Canadiens NHL 67 22 20 42 10 10 3 4 7 4
1966–67 Montreal Canadiens NHL 69 14 27 41 39 10 5 2 7 6
1967–68 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 20 25 45 14 13 4 3 7 4
1968–69 Montreal Canadiens NHL 72 13 28 41 16 14 3 4 7 10
1969–70 Montreal Canadiens NHL 72 19 24 43 20
1970–71 Montreal Canadiens NHL 16 1 4 5 0
1970–71 Los Angeles Kings NHL 33 14 13 27 8
1971–72 Los Angeles Kings NHL 76 23 29 52 22
1972–73 Los Angeles Kings NHL 63 20 29 49 6
1972–73 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 16 6 3 9 2 16 5 6 11 0
1973–74 Chicago Cougars WHA 78 33 50 83 26 18 5 14 19 4
1974–75 Chicago Cougars WHA 70 15 24 39 28
1975–76 Denver Spurs/Ottawa Civics WHA 41 21 29 50 14
1975–76 New England Whalers WHA 38 14 19 33 6 17 5 4 9 8
1976–77 New England Whalers WHA 77 17 31 48 30 3 0 0 0 0
WHA totals 234 85 129 214 76 38 10 18 28 12
NHL totals 1032 278 361 639 386 116 27 32 59 68

InternationalEdit

Year Team Event GP G A Pts PIM
1974 Canada SS-74 8 4 4 8 10
Senior totals 8 4 4 8 10

Head coaching recordEdit

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Denver Pioneers (WCHA) (1981–1990)
1981–82 Denver 21–19–3 9–15–2 4th WCHA Semifinals
1982–83 Denver 15–22–0 11–15–0 5th WCHA Quarterfinals
1983–84 Denver 14–25–0 8–18–0 5th WCHA Quarterfinals
1984–85 Denver 19–17–3 16–15–3 2nd WCHA Quarterfinals
1985–86 Denver 34–13–1 25–9–0 1st NCAA Consolation Game (Loss)
1986–87 Denver 19–18–3 16–16–3 3rd WCHA Quarterfinals
1987–88 Denver 20–17–2 19–14–2 3rd WCHA Quarterfinals
1988–89 Denver 22–19–2 16–17–2 5th WCHA Runner-Up
1989–90 Denver 18–24–0 13–15–0 5th WCHA Quarterfinals
Denver: 182–174–14 133–134–12
Total: 182–174–14

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

Source:[23]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The Memorial Cup: A History...1958". Taking Note with Gregg Drinnan. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "1958–59 Calder Memorial Trophy Winner". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ralph Backstrom Stats". Hockey-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Ralph Backstrom (1956–1971)". Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  5. ^ Scott, Jon C. (2006). Hockey Night in Dixie: Minor Pro Hockey in the American South. Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd. p. 163. ISBN 1-894974-21-2.
  6. ^ "Ottawa Civics". WHA Hockey. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  7. ^ "Ralph Backstrom". Elite Prospects. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Denver Men's Hockey Team History". USCHO.com. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  9. ^ "Colorado Eagles Mourn Passing of Team Founder, Ralph Backstrom". Colorado Eagles. February 7, 2021. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  10. ^ "Phoenix Roadrunners Statistics and History [IHL]". HockeyDB. The Internet Hockey Database. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  11. ^ "Runners to absolve deal with Kings". Arizona Republic. Phoenix. May 20, 1994. p. 31. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  12. ^ "1991–92 International Hockey League Standings". HockeyDB. The Internet Hockey Database. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  13. ^ "Ralph Backstrom, coach of the Kings' minor..." Los Angeles Times. June 12, 1992. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  14. ^ a b c Stubbs, Dave (February 7, 2021). "Backstrom dies at 83, won Stanley Cup six times with Canadiens". NHL.com. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  15. ^ Lytle, Kevin (February 7, 2021). "Colorado Eagles founder Ralph Backstrom dies at the age of 83". Coloradoan.com. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  16. ^ Blair, Darrel (March 2, 2003). "Inspired by Ice". Coloradoan.com. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  17. ^ Fischler, Stan; Fischler, Shirley (2003). Who's who in Hockey. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 9780740719042.
  18. ^ Coleman, Jim (January 12, 1972). "World of Sport". Calgary Herald. p. 45. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  19. ^ "Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Backstrom". Ottawa Journal. April 25, 1961. p. 22. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  20. ^ "Eagles' owner turns dream into storied hockey history". Fort Collins Coloradoan. September 14, 2003. Retrieved February 8, 2021. Janet, Backstrom's wife of 18 years
  21. ^ "Backstrom, who won 6 Stanley Cups with Montreal, dies at 83". Associated Press. February 8, 2021. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  22. ^ Westhead, Rick (February 1, 2022). [tsn.ca/former-montreal-canadiens-star-ralph-backstrom-had-cte-researcher-says-1.1753405 "Former Canadiens star Backstrom had CTE, researcher says"]. TSN.ca. Retrieved February 3, 2022. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  23. ^ "2013–14 Denver Hockey Media Guide" (PDF). Denver Pioneers. Retrieved July 17, 2014.

External linksEdit

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy
1959
Succeeded by
Preceded by WCHA Coach of the Year
1985–86
Succeeded by
Preceded by Spencer Penrose Award
1985–86
Succeeded by