Thursday, June 23, 2016

Robbie Ftorek Autographed Card

The Québec Nordiques will probably not be an NHL hockey team in the next two seasons barring a surprise relocation, but that won't stop me from checking off #7 in my Nordiques Numbers Project with this beautiful old-school card of Robbie Ftorek:
It's card #267 from O-Pee-Chee's 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee set, showing him in the team's inaugural blue (away) uniform, back when they had a white logo - a better view of which can be seen on the player standing right behind him in the picture, obviously taken during a pre-game warm-up.

Many people remember Ftorek for his helmet, but he was also quite the hockey player. After failing to crack the Detroit Red Wings for a couple of seasons, he made the move to the WHA where, after a decent first season in 1974-75 with the Phoenix Roadrunners (31 goals and 68 points in 53 games), aligned four 100-point seasons, with two each of First Team All-Star and Second Team All-Star nods, complete with the 1976-77 Gordie Howe Trophy (formerly known as the Gary L. Davidson Trophy) as league MVP. Not bad for a skinny 155-pound speedster.

He was the most productive American player of the 1970s - and Team USA's best forward and points leader at the 1976 Canada Cup. He also made the 1981 team, but Minnesota North Stars teammates Neal Broten and Steve Christoff were the team's unquestionable offensive leaders at that point.

Following the WHA folding, Ftorek signed with the Nordiques and had two nearly point-per-game seasons culminating in a sixth-place finish for Selke Trophy voting in 1980-81 and being named team captain, replacing local star Marc Tardif.

The captaincy may have proved too big a burden to bear, however, as Ftorek was limited to a single goal and 9 total points in 19 games to start the 1981-82 season, prompting the team to trade him to the New York Rangers along with the draft pick that became Brian Glynn for Pat Hickey and Jere Gillis.

I first got familiar with him when he coached the Los Angeles Kings at the end of the 1980s as Wayne Gretzky got traded to California, but more so when the Nordiques made him an assistant coach in that awful 1990-91 season where they only won 16 games despite Joe Sakic posting 109 points.

Fans of the New Jersey Devils will remember this outburst:

He had two decent years coaching the Boston Bruins to begin the millennium, but I got him to sign that card in blue sharpie during his time with the AHL's Albany River Rats, which dates this as between 2003 and 2006, when he won two AHL Coach Of The Year awards.

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