Flames hire Ftorek as AHL assistant coach

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Former NHL coach Robbie Ftorek has been hired by the Calgary Flames to serve as an assistant coach for the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat.

“In light of our commitment to rebuilding, and providing our young players with a chance to play, there is even greater importance being placed on development and getting our prospects ready to contribute as quickly as possible in Calgary,” said Flames general manager Jay Feaster in a release. “In support of that mission, we are thrilled to be able to add such an experienced coach and teacher as Robbie Ftorek to our organization. Robbie’s experience at every level of hockey, from the CHL to the AHL to the NHL, provides our players, and our coaching staffs, an incredible wealth of hockey knowledge on which to draw, and we believe he and Troy Ward will do a great job together in developing players for the Flames.”

Ftorek, 61, played 334 NHL games before he served as head coach for the Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins.

Among the players Ftorek coached in Los Angeles? One Wayne Gretzky.

But Ftorek didn’t last long in L.A. — the Kings fired Ftorek after just one full season behind the bench, and his relationship with the Great One, who had just been traded from Edmonton, was a big reason why.

From the L.A. Times (May 3, 1989):

On the night of Nov. 23, the Kings were beating the Red Wings and Gretzky was having what might have been a record night for points. When Gretzky felt that he had lapsed and contributed to a Detroit goal toward the end of the second period, he hit his stick on the back of the net in his anger at himself.

In the dressing room between the second and third periods, Ftorek announced that Gretzky would be benched at the start of the third period because Ftorek wanted to teach the team to be disciplined.

Gretzky fired back at Ftorek: “Robbie, if you want to teach, go back to New Haven. We’re here to win the Stanley Cup.”

Obviously, that was a long time ago. But it’s pretty slow, so there’s your hockey history lesson for the day, kids.