NEW YORK — After a lengthy dinner at a mid-town restaurant with co-owner Bruce McNall and General Manager Rogie Vachon, Rob Ftorek all but agreed to be the Kings' new coach Tuesday night.
"He has, in essence, said that he would be our head coach, and I said, 'Yes, I want you to be our head coach,' " McNall said early this morning. "He hasn't signed and it isn't 100% but, subject to him talking to his family, he has agreed to become our coach. I don't anticipate any problems."
An official announcement is expected to be made today.
Earlier Tuesday, in front of about 75 students more interested in taking home a souvenir puck than in who was the new coach of the Kings, Ftorek ran the Kings through drills at a high school rink in Bayonne, N.J.
The Kings, who Sunday fired former coach Mike Murphy, play the New Jersey Devils tonight at East Rutherford, N.J.
After the two-hour practice, a noncommittal Ftorek was asked if he anticipated anything happening over dinner that might prevent him from accepting the job, which the Kings had said was his for the taking.
"I don't anticipate anything," he said. "We're going to dinner and to talk and whatever happens, happens."
What was the holdup?
Ftorek, who met Monday in Washington with Vachon, wanted to meet McNall.
"It's not because of any demands," Ftorek said. "I want to know where L.A.'s going and how they're going to get there. And I want them to know what the heck they're getting into with me. They have to know what I am as much as I have to know what they are and where they're going. . . .
"I don't think that's unreasonable, so we're going to go talk and have something to eat.
"There's no big mystery here."
Later, after a four-hour meeting at Lello, an Italian restaurant, McNall described Ftorek as strong-willed and "very meticulous."
He said the discussion mostly centered around hockey.
"Things like contracts and benefits and bonuses don't seem very important to him," McNall said. "That wasn't a factor at all. And that really impressed me. He wanted to know what role he would have in running the team. He wants to be involved from A to Z."
The Kings' 7-17-4 record is the worst in the National Hockey League, and tonight they play a team that is 11-1-1 at home this season. Thursday night, they play at Boston, where they haven't beaten the Bruins since Jan. 24, 1981.
Vachon, who filled in behind the bench for Sunday night's 10-3 loss to the Washington Capitals, said the Kings are confused on the ice.
They needed a coach, and yet they seemed to drag their feet.
Obviously, in Ftorek, who has coached their American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn., for 2 1/2 seasons, they had found the coach they wanted.
"I told him he fits exactly what we're looking for," McNall said.
Even before Tuesday night's meeting, they had alerted Nick Beverly, a special-assignment scout who had been traveling on the West Coast, that he probably would be called back East to take over for Ftorek in New Haven on an interim basis.
"In a way, I like it that he didn't just come in and take the job," McNall said of Ftorek. "It shows me he isn't going to come in here and play dead.
"I'm very impressed with him."
Rob Ftorek would be the Kings' 15th coach in 21 seasons. . . . The Kings have lost their last four games and are 0-5-1 since beating the Chicago Blackhawks Nov. 25. . . . Craig Redmond's suspension has been lifted by the Kings, who announced that they will lend the disgruntled defenseman to the Canadian Olympic team. Redmond was suspended in October when he failed to report to the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn.
Mark Hardy, the left side of his face swollen where it was hit by a puck Sunday night, did not practice. "It feels like I've got two heads," he said. . . . Rogie Vachon: "I think we have a much, much better team than our record shows. We don't have a last-place team."