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Thursday, January 2, 2014

1977-78 Cincinnati Stingers Robbie Ftorek Jersey

Born on this date in 1952, Robbie Ftorek got his career off to a memorable start after playing high school hockey in is native Massachusetts and one year of junior hockey, he was recruited for the United States National team which went on to represent the US at the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan just past his 20th birthday and without having played a single game of college or minor league hockey.

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Needham High's Robbie Ftorek

Once in Japan, the United States defeated Switzerland in an all-or-nothing playoff game to advance to Group A to compete for a medal. After a loss to Sweden, the US shocked Czechoslovakia 5-1. They then lost to the dominant Soviet Union but followed that with another upset win, this time over Finland 4-1. They completed their schedule with a 6-1 win over Poland, and when Czechoslovakia lost to the Soviet Union and Finland dropped Sweden by a goal, suddenly the United States found themselves elevated from fourth place to second, giving them the silver medal!

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American Olympian Robbie Ftorek

He remained with the national team long enough play in the World Championships where the US went 5-1 in Group B where he was selected to the tournament all-star team.

With the good fortune to have been born in the early 1950's, he came of age in the early 1970's, which gave him the option of joining the NHL or theWHA, and despite being drafted by the New England Whalers of the WHA, he chose instead to sign as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL. He played the majority of the 1972-73 season with the Virginia Wings of the AHL , but did make his NHL debut with 3 games with Detroit.

The following season of 1973-74, Ftorek scored his first NHL points with 2 goals and 5 assists in a dozen games in Detroit, but once again played most of the year with Virginia, where he impressed with 24 goals and 66 points in 65 games.

His 1974-75 season was again split between the minor and the pros, only this time out he was with the Tulsa Oilers of the CHL for 11 games and played 53 games with his new club, the Phoenix Roadrunners of the WHA, where he had his first 30 goal season with 31, as well as another 37 assists for 68 points in just 53 games.

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Ftorek now in the WHA with Phoenix

He returned to Phoenix for the 1975-76 season where he led the Roadrunners in points with 113, which was good for fifth in the league, thanks in part to his 41 goals. He then posted similar numbers in year three in Phoenix, upping his totals to 46 goals and 117 points to finish fourth in the WHA. Before the 1976-77 season began, Ftorek laced up his skates for the United States for the inaugural Canada Cup tournament. In five games for the US, he scored 3 goals and 2 assists to lead the Americans in scoring.

Ftorek's heroics in Phoenix were not enough to save the struggling franchise however, and the club folded after the season. This allowed him to sign with the Cincinnati Stingers for 1977-78, leading to one of the more unusual jersey stories in hockey history. Stingers veteran Claude Larose had worn #8 for the past two seasons and Ftorek had also been wearing #8 as a tribute to former Boston Bruin Fleming Mackell. Neither wanted to relinquish their favorite number, so they had the team petition the league and permission was granted for both players to wear #8 during the season!

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The 1977-78 Cincinnati Stingers

Ftorek went on to lead the club in scoring by a wide margin with 109 points, well clear of Rick Dudley's 71. Ftorek's 59 goals were third overall in the WHA. In the standings, the Stingers finished seventh in the one-division now shrinking WHA, two points out of the playoffs.

Ftorek again led the team in points in 1978-79 with 116, now second overall in the WHA. The Stingers were eliminated from the playoffs in Round 1, two games to one by the New England Whalers, but not before winning their one and only playoff game in team history 6-3 at home in Game 2.

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Following the season, the WHA agreed to a one-sided merger plan with the NHL, which allowed Winnipeg, New England, Quebec and Edmonton to join the NHL as expansion franchises, while the owners of both Cincinnati and the Birmingham Bulls were given a cash payment of $3.15 million as a buy-out, putting an end to the Stingers franchise after just four years on the ice.

Once again a free agent, Ftorek signed with the Quebec Nordiques for their inaugural NHL season. With established scorers Real Cloutier, Marc Tardif and Michel Goulet already on the roster, Ftorek's numbers suffered as he was no longer the "go to" guy. His point totals dropped to 18 goals and 51 points, as the Nordiques sank to 61 points in the standings, 19th out of 21, as they were heavily affected by the terms of their entry into the NHL.

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Nordiques Captain Ftorek

In 1980-81 he raised his totals back up to 24 goals and 73 points, thanks in part to the arrival of Peter and Anton Stastny, which bolstered the Nordiques offensive attack. Ftorek would play for the United States one final time during the 1981 Canada Cup prior to playing just 19 games with Quebec in 1981-82, which included being named the team captain, before being traded for the first time in his career. His destination was the New York Rangers, where he would play 30 games during the remainder of the season, 61 in 1982-83 and 31 the following season before coming full circle as he found himself back in the CHL with the Tulsa Oilers for a second time.

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Ftorek finished his time in the NHL with the Rangers

He was back with the Rangers in 1984-85 for 48 games, as well as 17 in the AHL with the New Haven Nighthawks. He would play just a single game for New Haven in 1985-86 before retiring as a player, ending his career with 707 combined WHA and NHL games, 293 goals and 750 points. He would eventually make his way back to the NHL as a head coach with the Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins.

Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Cincinnati Stingers Robbie Ftorek jersey. Or is it a Claude Larose jersey?

In a story that could only come from the wacky WHA, LaRose was the Stingers leading scorer at the time they acquired the league MVP Ftorek, formerly of Phoenix - and both wore the #8. The Stingers appealed to the league and were granted permission to have both players wear #8 - at the same time!

Since the nameplate was removed from this jersey, there's no way to be certain short of photomatching, which one of Ftorek or Larose wore this particular #8 jersey. Larose was traded to the Indianapolis Racers after 51 games of that season, leaving Ftorek's to wear #8 all by himself for the remainder of his time in Cincinnati.

With the Stingers name lending itself to a multi-stripe theme, it's a wonder the Stingers jerseys were as reserved as they were. The Stingers logo is a wonderful piece of graphic design and looks as modern today as it did when it was first conceived, and has always been a favorite of ours.

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