The Complete World Hockey Association

Robbie Ftorek Robert Brian Ftorek

Height: 5-8
Weight: 155
Shoot: L
Born: 2 Jan 1952, Needham MA


Regular Season & Playoff Scoring Record (key)

year team
1974-75 Phoenix
1975-76 Phoenix
1976-77 Phoenix
1977-78 Cincinnati
1978-79 Cincinnati

• Winner, Gordie Howe Trophy (Most Valuable Player), 1976-77

Mighty Atom Ftorek: Phoenix Fans' Choice • by Reyn Davis • The Sporting News • November 6, 1976

Robbie Ftorek grew up crashing gates to see the Boston Bruins. His accomplice was a season ticket holder — his father.

Slightly heavier than a wet issue of the Sunday Globe, he would hide under his father's coat as he passed through the busy turnstiles in the Boston Garden.

Once inside the building, he would come out from under the dark overcoat and enjoy the games with his dad.

Night after night, they watched Fleming Mackell scurry all over the ice, bumping people who got in the way, sticking out that considerable chest of his.

There were games in which Robbie fixed his gaze on Mackell or Henri Richard or Stan Mikita, and studied their every move.

The Cleary brothers, Billy and Bob, both members of the Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. team in hockey at Squaw Valley in 1960, sat just below the Ftoreks in the Garden. The Clearys were always eager to point out the subtleties of the game.

It seemed but a pipe dream for the frail lad that he would someday bear watching, too.

Today he is a block-busting 5-7 and 149 pounds, quick as mercury and explosive, too.

No one denies that he is the meal ticket of the Phoenix Roadrunners. Size is not his problem as much as his opponents' worry. He's a pest, scratching and digging and bumping and squirming. To stop him, the best defense is a net.

He plays recklessly, often annoying those he's trying to beat. Nobody that small should do so much damage, they seem to say. "Get that little..." is a phrase heard a hundred times a season.

But Ftorek darts over the ice in relative freedom, showing little or no regard for looming danger.

His insurance is a horde of teammates who make his welfare their concern. Touch Ftorek, friend, and not only will he touch back, but you'll have a dozen Roadrunners down your neck, led by the captain Al McLeod, Serge Beaudoin and Jim Niekamp.

Ftorek had 113 points last year on a club that played defensive hockey with the regimentation of a military color guard. Now the shackles are off, thanks to Al Rollins, pledged to bringing success and entertainment to Phoenix.

Only one center in the WHA had more points than his last season. Ulf Nilsson of the Winnipeg Jets had 114. Ftorek finished a strong fifth in the scoring race, firing 41 goals and earning 72 assists as he led the Roadrunners to a second-place standing.

Phoenix pundits have nicknamed the combination of Ftorek, Del Hall and John Gray the Lightning Line. Together they accounted for 123 goals last season, 47 of them by Hall.

Rollins, the Roadrunners' new coach, is confident the line will produce again. His principal concern is finding another productive unit to complement them. He is staking his faith in three Finns — Seppo Repo, Lauri Mononen and Juhani (Tammy) Tamminen.

It became evident in September that Ftorek is the best American-born player in the game today. Following the Canada Cup series, he was named the most valuable player in the U.S. lineup and received a car.

Raised in the Boston suburb of Needham, he attended school with the sons of Bruin greats Milt Schmidt and Woody Dumart.

But because he was so small, he was prevented from playing organized sports with other boys his age. For example, he didn't play football in junior high because he couldn't reach the minimum weight limit of 115 pounds. Instead, he played soccer and became so proficient he led his school team to the state championship.

Nobody gave him much of a chance when the Detroit Red Wings drafted him far down the list in 1972. But he came back from the Olympics and picked up 17 goals and 42 assists in 55 games at Tidewater, in the American League.

Phoenix and the Red Wings made identical offers money-wise, but the Roadrunners were promising him a position on the big club. The Red Wings weren't.

"All I asked was the chance to play up top," he said.

But the Roadrunners soon had second thoughts. Ftorek didn't seem to be the disciplined checker Sandy Hucul hoped he would be, A knee injury gave them an excuse to send him to the minors.

...One night Adam Keller, the Oklahoma City coach, told him he had 20 minutes to catch a plane back to Phoenix to see his family,

As he arrived at the airport, he suddenly realized he had left his wallet with the trainer. But the driver decided he had an honest face. Later he received $10 in the mail and a thank-you note.

Coincidentally, three Roadrunners were hurt and the team had just suffered a 7-2 loss to Edmonton, Hucul called him at 4:30 in the afternoon on the day of the game and asked him to play ... just for this one occasion.

That night he scored a goal and assisted on another.

The following morning, he was packing his bags again when his wife shouted joyously from behind the morning paper.

"Look," she cried, "Bill MacFarland (club president), said there is no way you are going back to the minors."

He stopped, put down the bags and picked up the paper. No violins were playing but the message was clear.

Yes, he was staying. And ever since, he's played every game to the fullest, leading his team and entertaining fans with his unique brand of hyper-hockey.


Excerpts from Zander Hollander Complete Hockey Handbook, 1975-76 (by Reyn Davis)

"Superpest" is his nickname ... One of the shortest and definitely the lightest player in the WHA ... Flits across the ice ... Tough to keep track of, the lament of most WHA defenseman ... Member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic hockey team, along with Houston's Mark Howe and Minnesota's Mike Curran and Henry Boucha ... Very blonde in keeping with his Scandinavian background ... Missed 25 games at the start of the year in 1974-75 while an ailing knee healed ... Soon after his union with John Gray and Dennis Sobchuk, the two became the league's hottest line in critical days of late February and early March ... Line had an ability to swarm over its opponents ... Efficiency factor of +49 was exceeded by only one skater — Bobby Hull.


Excerpts from Pro Hockey, WHA 1976-77 (by Dan Proudfoot)

Ned Harkness was laughed out of Detroit as manager of the NHL Red Wings, but his word should be respected in Phoenix. It was Ned, after all, who told Bill MacFarland he simply had to sign Robbie Ftorek.

Harkness had tried Ftorek with the Red Wings but the youngster from Needham, Mass., wasn't ready. Now 24, Ftorek has been showing Phoenix fans for two seasons that Ned Harkness knew a hockey player when he saw one. After a minor league year at Tulsa, Robbie scored 31 goals for Roadrunners in 1974-75 and 41 in 1975-76, when he also added 72 assists to be the league's second-highest scoring center.

... Ftorek became the first American to score 100 points in major league competition. And he did it by daring the league's heavies to pound him off of the puck. He often keeps his head down, contrary to the style of almost every other player. "If a defenseman is coming at you and you have your head up, he knows that you see him," says Ftorek. "But if you've got your head down and he thinks he's got you, he's going to slow down and take his time and try to run you. Then you've got him beat."


Excerpts from Zander Hollander's Guide to Pro Hockey, 1978-79 (by Reyn Davis)

Set the single-season scoring mark for American-born players with 59 goals last season ... Finished with an amazingly high efficiency rating (+31) for a team that finished in seventh place, giving up 34 more goals than it scored ... Shared the league-lead for power-play goals (20) with Quebec's Real Cloutier ... As a youngster, he was considered too small to play hockey, so he played soccer instead ... Uses a stick with a straight blade ... His slow wind-up slapshot ranks with the best, as does his backhand ... Owns homes in Phoenix and Cincinnati ... Devoted family man ... Superb team man ... Works extremely hard ... WHA's MVP in the 1976-77 season



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