A Moral Victory At 1976 Canada Cup
No one expected much from Team USA in the first Canada Cup tournament in 1976, but the team went above and beyond expectations.
After opening the tournament with losses to Sweden and Canada, the United States held a 4-1 lead over a Czechoslovakian team that would go on to finish second in the tournament. A third period surge by the defending world champions resulted in a 4-4 tie.
Team USA was down 2-0 in its final game against Finland but never quit, scoring six goals to earn a 6-3 victory.
Robby Ftorek, who was playing for the Phoenix Roadrunners of the WHA at the time, led the Americans in scoring with five points (three goals, two assists) followed by Dean Talafous, Craig Patrick and Mike Milbury who added four points. Mike “Lefty” Curran saw the lion’s share of action in net for the Yanks.
Team USA finished fifth in the six-team tournament but proved that the production of quality hockey players in America didn’t end with the 1960 Olympic Team. It was only the beginning.
‘76 Cup Story Tops Chartraw Career
With 12 years of NHL experience and four Stanley Cups with one of hockey’s greatest dynasties, Rick Chartraw has his fair share of stories to tell.
He might tell you about the lone ice sheet in Caracas, Venezuela, where he was born or about the outdoor rink he learned to skate on as a kid when his family moved to Erie, Pa.
“It was wonderful because the parents in the neighborhood put lights up and a warming shack and that’s kind of what babysat us kids all winter long,” he says.
Or he might tell you about playing with the Erie Lions, a men’s competitive team, when he was just 13 years old or about striking a deal with a Junior A team in Canada.
Wanting to make it to the NHL while not giving up completely on the opportunity for a college education, Chartraw made a proposition.
“I told all the Junior A clubs I would commit to playing three years,” he says. “And if I didn’t turn pro after that, they would pay for my books, room and board, and tuition to any four-year college I wanted to go to in the United States.”
Apparently, Chartraw’s size, toughness and scoring ability were enough to lure the Kitchener Rangers to accept the deal and sign the 16-year old defenseman. The Rangers got off easy, as three years later Chartraw was drafted tenth overall by the Montreal Canadiens.
Chartraw will most likely tell you about the most incredible moment of his career, which came during the 1976 Stanley Cup Finals. After scoring the game-winning goal for Montreal in Game 3, he was the last one on the team bus. He was met by a standing ovation from the entire team, a team that included future Hall-of-Famers Jacques Lemaire, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe, among others, and a team that would go on to win the next three consecutive Stanley Cups.
Although Chartraw retired from the NHL in 1984 and stopped skating altogether 10 years ago, the stories don’t stop there. He’s spent the past few years golfing and fishing in Australia and is planning on getting into the renewable energy business when he returns to the States.
Ftorek A Diamond In The Rough
He may have only been 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, but Robbie Ftorek was one of the hardest working players in the game. And what he lacked in size he made up for with his feisty playing style and fierce competitive nature.
Discovered during an Olympic tryout, Ftorek began his career playing for Team USA at the 1972 Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan where he helped win the silver medal, the first medal of any kind a U.S. hockey team had won in 12 years.
Four years later, he joined Rick Chartraw and company on Team USA’s inaugural Canada Cup roster, where he led the team with five points.
Ftorek enjoyed a 14-year career as a pro in the World Hockey Association and the NHL, playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Quebec Nordiques and the New York Rangers. After retiring as a player in 1986, he began a coaching career that would include stops behind the bench with the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins.
Ftorek is still involved in the game. He’s in his second season as the head coach of the Erie Otters of the OHL.
Photos - USA Hockey, Getty Images