Robbie Ftorek was a skilled forward who made his presence felt in the NHL, WHA, and internationally. Although he was only 155 lbs., the crafty forward was lightning quick and able to avoid many hits during his career. He entered the 2001-02 season as the new head coach of the Boston Bruins.
The native of Needham, Massachusetts, spent a year with the Halifax Junior Canadians of the Nova Scotia junior league before signing up with the U.S. national team. In 1972 he represented his country when they won a silver medal at the Sapporo Olympics. A few weeks later he competed at the World Championships "B" Pool and was selected to the tournament all-star team.
The talented forward was signed by the Detroit Red Wings and played a handful of games in 1972-73 and 1973-74. He spent most of his first two pro seasons with the AHL's Virginia Wings. Always a bit of a free spirit, Ftorek decided to pursue his pro dreams in the World Hockey Association. He was an offensive force for three years on the Phoenix Roadrunners then two seasons with the Cincinnati Stingers. Along the way Ftorek won the Gary Davidson trophy as the league's most valuable player in 1977 and was selected to the league's first and second all-star teams twice each. He also scored five points in five games for the USA at the inaugural Canada Cup in 1976.
Ftorek signed with the Quebec Nordiques as they were about to join the NHL in 1979-80. He was a solid offensive performer for two seasons in La Belle Province then suited up for the U.S. at the 1981 Canada Cup. After a slow start in 1980-81, Ftorek was traded to the New York Rangers and scored 32 points in 30 games then helped the Rangers reach the second round of the playoffs. The tricky forward was a major asset when the Blueshirts extended the Stanley Cup champion Islanders to six games in the quarterfinals. Ftorek remained a solid role player in New York until the end of the 1984-85 season.
After playing briefly with the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks, Ftorek retired early in the 1985-86 season. He eventually returned to the NHL in 1987-88 as the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings and was on hand when Wayne Gretzky joined the team in 1988-89. Ftorek then joined the New Jersey Devils organization as coach of their Albany River Rats club in the AHL. He led the team to the Calder Cup in 1995 and was named the AHL's top coach that year as well as in 1996. He was then promoted to the assistant coaching position in New Jersey and later took over the head reigns from 1998 to late in the 2000 season. After nine seasons in the Devils organization, Ftorek coached parts of two seasons with the Boston Bruins before being relieved of his duties in the latter stages of the 2002-03 season.