April 10 (UPI) — Tom Webster, a former NHL and World Hockey Association forward who went on to coach the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings, died Friday. He was 71.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Kings announced Webster’s death on social media.
“It is very sad news for our organization. Coach Webster was a great man and my head coach for three seasons,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said in a statement. “He was also a tremendous part of a lot of the success our team enjoyed when Wayne Gretzky was playing in Los Angeles in particular.”
During his playing career, Webster started in the NHL and recorded 33 goals and 42 assists in 102 career games with the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and the now-defunct California Golden Seals.
Webster, a native of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, then made the jump to the World Hockey Association. He scored 53 goals and helped the Hurricanes — then the New England Whalers — win the World Hockey Association’s first championship in 1972-73.
Webster, who was inducted into the World Hockey Association’s Hall of Fame in 2012, had 220 goals and 205 assists in six seasons (352 games) with the Whalers.
The Rangers hired Webster as their head coach in 1986, but an inner-ear infection left him unable to fly. He resigned in April 1987.
Webster then took over the Kings in 1989 and guided the club to their first division title. He posted a 115-94-31 record in three seasons with the team. He was also an assistant coach in Carolina.
“He was a great man, that’s the best way to describe him,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said Friday. “He was a good coach obviously, but that was second to the man he was. It’s a sad day. I’m glad I had the chance to know him.”