There He Was Again – Ralph Backstrom

He had all the things I knew were good in life – a big talent and one who could skate like the wind, a great brush-cut, a lovely wife, was a heralded phenom when he was a kid, and he wore the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens. What could be better than all that?

He was Ralph Backstrom, and I wanted to be Ralph Backstrom. I knew I wasn’t going to be another Rocket or Beliveau or Geoffrion, so I thought I’d be Backstrom instead. I started by getting a brush-cut and posing on the ice like I’d seen Backstrom do in pictures, even when I was supposed to be concentrating on playing. My coaches must have wondered what the heck I was doing.

He had come out of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a little town in northern Ontario that seemed to churn out hockey players the way General Motors churns out cars, having produced Ted Lindsay, Mike Walton, Dick Duff, Barclay, Bob and Bill Plager, the Hillman brothers, Mickey Redmond and others, and especially Backstrom. He was a star in minor hockey, as most pros once were, and was captain and the best of the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens junior squad before he joined the big club.

I loved the way Ralph Backstrom played, the way he skated like a blur and was so solid both as a scorer and a checker. And because he was such a fast skater, he and Henri Richard would race around the Forum ice from time to time for the fun of it because they were the team speed demons.

I hadn’t seen an image of Backstrom for years, and suddenly, during the 100th birthday celebrations at the Bell Centre, there he was, smiling and walking out to centre ice with the others. It made me happy to see him. But he doesn’t have his brush cut anymore, and that made me sad.

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15 thoughts on “There He Was Again – Ralph Backstrom”

  1. Hi Anvilcloud. I’ve a picture here of Ab McDonald posing in his Chicago uniform with a beautiful model.

  2. But Gillis, how was I to look good on the ice if I didn’t pose? I disagree with you. To make the NHL, you must pose well.

  3. Danno, maybe there’s lots of similarities between Plekanec and Backstrom. Both fast and slick. Brush-cuts. Non-goons. And I say this – it would be great if Tomas Plekanec becomes as much a Montreal Canadien as Backstrom was and is written in the same breath as Backstrom. And Plekanec can be , although he has the added complication on being European. If Plekanec can be Backstrom or even more, I’d be so happy.
    In those old days, everyone talked of course about Beliveau and Henri Richard and the rest, but Backstrom was hugely important and won rookie of the year and later became great in both ends of the ice. He was to the Habs what Dave Keon was to the Leafs. I was very jealous. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t be like Backstrom too. He wasn’t big, wasn’t a fighter. I was a guy who would never make it: He was a guy who would and did.

  4. Hey Dennis;Ralph Backstrom was a good hockey player,I remember as a kid listening to the games on the radio on sundays ,treying to imagine him streaking down the ice(not naked with gear on).That brings back alot of memories.Back in Port Alice now,great holiday looking forward to tommorows game “A holes watch Canada go”

  5. Derry, you had a better holiday than just about everybody in the world considering you were at some World Junior games and be with family too. And wouldn’t it be something to have the whole time off and see the whole tourney?

  6. Yes it would be awesome but oh well …not imprssed with nazim kadri’s agtitude after the last game and in other games as well,especially the throat slashing motion,he has to remember that this will stick with him throughout his carreer ,sean avery clone?

  7. Derry, he will fit in with the rest of the Goofs in the blue & white !
    Cheers from the East !!!

  8. Hi Dennis,

    My dad grew up with Ralph Backstrom in Kirkland Lake and he hung out at our house when I was a kid in Montreal. My dad would like to contact him! Any idea where he is now?

    Thank you,

    Christine

  9. Hi Christine. Thanks for that! Backstrom was one of my favourite players growing up and I wanted to be him – so I got my hair cut like him and tried to skate like him but the comparisons fall quite short after that. I’ve known for years he was in Colorado and I see online that he’s involved with the Colorado Eagles of the CHL. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_Eagles. Try them. Please let me know how you make out. I’m very interested.
    Thanks,
    Dennis

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