The hockey world is in mourning today after learning of the passing of Tom Webster, a former player and coach in the NHL. Webster, who was 71-years-old, died after a battle with brain cancer.
Born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario in 1948, Webster was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins 19th overall in 1966. After parts of two seasons in Boston, he would move on to the Detroit Red Wings where he would have his best season in the NHL in 1970-71, recording 30 goals and 67 points in 78 games. After a very short stint with the California Golden Seals, Webster would join the New England Whalers of the WHA, the team that eventually became the Hartford Whalers of the NHL. That's where he would make his mark, spending six seasons there and scoring 53 goals in 77 games in 1972-73.
Following his retirement from playing hockey, Webster became a coach at various levels, including the NHL. His first head coaching job came in 1986, when he became coach of the New York Rangers following the firing of Ted Sator. After only five games, Webster fell ill with what was later diagnosed as an inner-ear infection that left him unable to fly. He returned as head coach on January 5th for home games only. He was cleared to fly again in January, but suffered a relapse during a game against the Edmonton Oilers and was told to stay off planes for at least three months. Esposito named himself head coach for the remainder of the season. When it became apparent that Webster would not be able to return to the bench full-time the following season, he resigned on April 30, 1987.
Webster's next head coaching stint was with the Los Angeles Kings. He led the Kings to what was their only regular season division title in franchise history, in 1990-91.
While coaching the Kings in a game against Detroit on November 16, 1991, Webster became upset at what he felt was a blown call by referee Kerry Fraser. The Kings were assessed an extra penalty, and Webster took a stick and threw it on the ice, hitting one of Fraser's skates. He was suspended for 12 games.
Our sincere condolences to Webster's family, friends and fans.