Among the many Rhode Island players, coaches, and executives who have distinguished themselves and given back to hockey what hockey has given to them, Ralph Warburton, our first Malcolm Greene Chace Memorial Award recipient, stands tall.
Ralph was born in Cranston in 1924. He was an All-State hockey selection at LaSalle Academy in the early 40’s, and went on to become a multiple sport star at Dartmouth College, then one of the country’s most powerful hockey programs.
At Dartmouth, he became a key figure, along with fellow Rhode Island legends Dick Rondeau, George Pulliam and Jack Kilmartin, in an historic 46-game unbeaten streak. A natural-born leader and a prolific scorer, he captained the Big Green during their 1947 national championship season. Later that year, under the team name of the Hanover Indians, Ralph’s Dartmouth squad captured the National AAU title here in Providence.
A powerful skater and deft puck handler, Warburton became RI’s first Olympic hockey player when he was selected to the American Hockey Association team chosen to play in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz. Warburton excelled, scoring a remarkable 16 goals and 5 assists in the USA’s eight Olympic contests.
On his return to the USA, Warburton helped Lou Pieri’s Rhode Island Scarlets to the Atlantic Amateur Hockey League (AAHL) championship and then to the National American Hockey Association (AHA) title in Ohio. He would go on to play professionally with several teams at the minor league level, including a 33-goal season with the Boston Olympics of the Eastern Hockey League in 1951.
After his playing days, Ralph became a dedicated youth hockey coach and a pioneer on-ice official – a mentor to dozens of hockey referees and a builder of the RI Ice Hockey Officials Association, one of the six founding chapters of the National Ice Hockey Official’s Association. He was elected National President of the NIHOA in 1966, the only Rhode Islander ever to serve in that capacity.
Outside of hockey, Ralph was a successful stockbroker. He was inducted into the RI Heritage Hall of Fame in 1968. He sadly passed away in December of 2021 at age 97.