A veteran of nearly five decades in hockey as a player and coach, Robbie Ftorek successfully combined player development with winning during an impressive tenure behind American Hockey League benches.
A native of Needham, Massachusetts, Ftorek turned pro with the AHL’s Virginia Wings in 1972, just months after winning a silver medal with the United States Olympic team in Sapporo, Japan. Ftorek would total 141 points in 138 AHL games over 13 pro seasons before signing on to serve as head coach of the New Haven Nighthawks in 1985.
Ftorek led New Haven to a pair of playoff appearances and was in first place on Dec. 9, 1987, when he was promoted to head coach of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. After two seasons in L.A., Ftorek was named head coach of the AHL’s Halifax Citadels, and earned another promotion to the NHL after just four months when he was elevated to an assistant’s role with the Quebec Nordiques.
Ftorek joined the New Jersey Devils organization in 1991 and enjoyed his greatest AHL success. He won back-to-back Louis A.R. Pieri Awards as the league’s outstanding coach, first in 1994-95 as he led the Albany River Rats to a Calder Cup championship, and then in 1995-96 on the strength of a 54-win, 115-point regular season, one of the best campaigns in league history. Ftorek’s time guiding the Devils’ top prospects helped propel players like Martin Brodeur, Bill Guerin, Steve Sullivan, Scott Pellerin, Brian Rolston, Mike Dunham and Jay Pandolfo to lengthy NHL careers.
After turns running benches in New Jersey and Boston, Ftorek returned to the AHL and coached Albany again from 2003 to 2006. He currently ranks 11th all-time with 354 wins as an AHL head coach, and remains the only coach in the last 30 years to win the Pieri Award twice.