Long-time Eagle Bach excited to continue tradition

📝 by Patrick Williams

Ryan Bach’s life resume looks something like this: pro goaltender, goaltending assistant coach, interim head coach, broadcaster, real estate executive, goaltending coach again, and now team president.

While Bach’s roles have changed, the Colorado Eagles have been a constant in his life since the team’s 2003 founding. The organization started in the now-defunct Central Hockey League, moved into the ECHL, and arrived in the American Hockey League in 2018 as the top development affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

Working as the Eagles’ goaltending coach this season, Bach made the unorthodox move to team president Jan. 21. The past five weeks have involved a crash course in the AHL from the business side as well learning the organization’s inner workings.

Bach first arrived in the state in 1992 when he began a four-year NCAA career at Colorado College. His eight pro seasons concluded in 2003-04 with the Eagles, and then Bach went on to become the club’s goaltending coach, beginning a run in which the franchise would take two CHL championships as well as back-to-back ECHL Kelly Cup wins in 2017 and 2018. He shifted to an assistant coaching role for the 2007-08 season, also spending part of that campaign as an interim head coach. Off the ice, he went into real estate in 2011, opening, managing, and owning the local RE/MAX Eagle Rock brokerage.

But this latest move is different for Bach, who will also serve as the team’s alternate governor. Eagles owner and chief executive officer Martin Lind put an opportunity in front of Bach.

“It came up, and I had a short period of time to think it over with my family,” said the 48-year-old Bach, who played 82 career AHL games with the Adirondack Red Wings, Louisville Panthers and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. “I made a decision. It was an opportunity of a lifetime going from the coaching side to where I’m at now in a management position.”

While the move opened a number of unknowns for Bach, his familiarity with the Eagles eased that decision. It’s just that instead of working with head coach Greg Cronin and assistant coach Aaron Schneekloth, he would be moving into the front office.

“We’ve had a world-class organization here from day one,” Bach said. “I’ve been given an opportunity, not only with the coaching side but now with the management side to be a part of that moving forward. I am looking forward to…continuing the winning culture and tradition that they have here. I think that’s what makes it the most enticing, being able to come into the office now and be a part of that.”

The Avalanche first partnered with the Eagles before the 2016-17 season, setting up an ECHL affiliation with the club in Northern Colorado. Then an opportunity arose in 2018 to upgrade that relationship to an NHL-AHL affiliation, and the Avalanche pounced on it. For the Avalanche, the move offered the organization a chance to have their AHL affiliate an hour away with an established operation while also opening up in-state marketing possibilities.

For Bach and other members of the Eagles organization, partnering with the Avalanche provided new learning opportunities as well, strengthening relationships with Avs general manager Joe Sakic and assistant GM’s Craig Billington and Chris MacFarland.

“They’ve been really open, and we’ve had some really good conversations [about] player personnel and development,” Bach stated. “It’s helped me along the way being able to be put in those environments.”

Working in real estate provided another sort of education for Bach.

“I owned and operated it,” Bach said. “So I took the [same] mindset and approach to it as building a team. And with my leadership, I wanted to make sure that we obviously had all the pieces in place to give structure within that office. The biggest part of it, too, is you have to enjoy what you do. I think that was something that I wanted to make sure that within their office culture, everyone enjoyed coming in each and every day. It’s the same as in the locker room.”

So what do typical days look like now for Bach? They certainly are not the highly structured days that come with coaching. His days now require flexibility and an ability to pivot to changing demands.

“I’d be at the rink in the mornings working with the Eagles coaching staff, you’re on the ice, there’s meetings and videos, there’s a lot that goes into it,” Bach explained.

“Now all of a sudden I’m on the front-office side…figuring out, ‘Okay, I knew what my role was going to be, being able to provide leadership skills that I have confidence in.’ But then it comes into the whole new facet of your handling [and] overseeing the day-to-day operations in the front office, whether it be marketing, all aspects of the franchise operations, the business operation, budgeting, and then being an alternate governor.

“[The transition] is an eye-opener. We just had six games in 10 nights. So knowing and seeing what goes on behind the scenes now, yeah, it gives you a newfound respect of all the details that go into it.”

Much of Bach’s job will be maintaining and further raising the standard that the Eagles have set. The team regularly plays before strong crowds at the 5,289-seat Budweiser Events Center. This season’s club is 25-16-3-3 (.596) following Saturday night’s 4-1 win in Milwaukee and is in a favorable position to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

“[The Eagles have] been a big part of the sports landscape in Northern Colorado ― and Colorado, for that matter,” Bach continued. “It does start with our Eagles fans, the loyalty and enthusiasm that they’ve shown. They’ve certainly created one of the most passionate environments that I’ve seen in minor-league sports. It’s something that I know opposing teams come in, and they have the wow factor, like: ‘Wow, is it like this every night?’

“To say, ‘Yeah, it is,’ … That’s something I know for our players they love playing here. It’s a great area.”