Barry Gutierrez/Associated Press
Ralph Backstrom, a former NHL center who won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, died Sunday at the age of 83.
Backstrom also founded the Colorado Eagles, who currently serve as the Colorado Avalanche’s AHL affiliate. The Eagles released a statement on Backstrom’s death.
“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,” Eagles owner and CEO Martin Lind wrote. “We all are forever indebted to this legacy of a gentleman and we pray his family has peace and comfort in this difficult time.”
Avs play-by-play commentator Marc Moser and NHL.com’s Dave Stubbs also provided memories of Backstrom:
Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs
Ralph Backstrom, gone today at age 83, was a tremendous centreman, No. 3 behind Jean Béliveau and Henri Richard on incredibly deep 1950s and 1960s #GoHabsGo teams. These photos are shared by Ralph’s son, Andrew, just now. #GoKingsGo #Blackhawks https://t.co/r8TwdelIyE https://t.co/pYESsFhHIb
Backstrom played 21 professional hockey seasons: 17 in the NHL and four in the World Hockey Association. He amassed 378 goals and 514 assists during his career, winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1958-59.
Backstrom won Cups with the Canadiens in 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1971 and suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1972-73 season before finishing his career in the WHA, retiring after the 1976-77 campaign.
His post-playing career stops included a few seasons as an assistant coach for the University of Denver (1977-1980) and the Kings (1980-1981) before returning to Denver as the Pioneers’ head coach from 1981-1990. Denver’s best season occurred in 1985-86, when the team won 25 conference games, earned the WCHA conference crown and reached the NCAA tournament semifinals.
Two seasons as the head coach of the International Hockey League’s Phoenix Roadrunners followed before he assumed the titles of senior vice president and commissioner of Roller Hockey International, Inc.
In 1999, Backstrom shifted gears and worked as a special assignment scout for the St. Louis Blues for three seasons before founding the Eagles and serving as the team’s president and general manager. He retired in 2007.
Per the Eagles, Backstrom is survived by his wife Janet, daughter, Diana, and sons Andrew and Martin.