John ‘Warren’ Back, Dayton hockey legend, remembered for hall of fame career after his death

Dayton hockey legend John “Warren” Back is being remembered for his many area sports exploits after his obituary published in the Dayton Daily News last weekend.

Back, who died July 13 at age 85, grew up in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, where he put on his first pair of skates at age 6.

Back excelled at many sports, but hockey was his passion. During the cold Canadian winters, he skated to school and played hockey on recess, according to his obituary. A standout, he quickly moved up the ranks and headed to the United States to play Junior League hockey at 16.

A possible NHL career was derailed by an injury. He continued his professional hockey career playing for teams in the International Hockey League. He played in Louisville, Milwaukee and Muskegon, retiring as a player/coach for the Dayton Gems.

A reporter in a 1968 Dayton Daily News story said that Back, who was leading the Gems on another playoff run, “must be given prime consideration as Coach of the Year in 1967-68,” for getting the job done “by getting the most from a bunch of go-go guys, who have brought a spirit to the Gems never known before.”

Gems General Manager Lefty McFadden thought highly of Back, saying in a 1968 article about his retirement, “We never had a contract. A handshake every year was good enough.”

Back was inducted to the Gems first Hall of Fame in 1970. During the ceremony, McFadden said, “I feel Warren, more than any other man, is responsible for selling hockey in Dayton. I feel that if we could have hand-picked any one man, it would have had to be Warren Back.”

Family was always a priority to Back, and the decision to prioritize family over career was a continuous theme in his life.

Upon retiring from hockey, he worked for Price Bros. Concrete Pipe Company, which relocated him to Michigan, then back to Ohio, where he retired as the Vice President of the Pressure Pipe Division.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Rose and his brother, Edward Back. He is survived by his four children: David (Megan) Back of Lafayette, Colo., Kelli (Ian) Brennan of Colorado Springs, Colo., Nikki (Casey) Price of Broomfield, Colo., and Jodi (Jeffry) Champagne of Colorado Springs, Colo. Also surviving are his seven grandchildren: Nicholas and Holly Brennan, Katy Back, Zachary and Rachel Price, and Jackson and Mia Champagne.

A memorial service will be held at David’s United Church of Christ in Kettering, Ohio, on Nov. 5, 2022, at 1 p.m. followed by a Celebration of Life in the adjacent Fellowship Hall. David’s United Church of Christ Facebook page will be streaming the service for those unable to attend in person.