Bill Torrey

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Bill Torrey
BillTorrey.jpg
Bill Torrey in 2015
Born(1934-06-23)June 23, 1934
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedMay 2, 2018(2018-05-02) (aged 83)
OccupationHockey executive
Known forGeneral manager of the New York Islanders (1972–92)
President of the Florida Panthers (1993–2001)
AwardsHockey Hall of Fame (1995)

William Arthur Torrey (June 23, 1934 – May 2, 2018) was a Canadian hockey executive. He served as a general manager in the National Hockey League for the Oakland Seals, New York Islanders, and Florida Panthers. He developed the Islanders into a dynasty that won four consecutive Stanley Cups.[1] He was often known as "The Architect", and "Bow-Tie" Bill, after the signature bow tie he always wore.

Early life[edit]

Torrey was from Montreal, and was raised near the Montreal Forum.[2] His father worked as a stockbroker.[3] He tried out for the Montreal Canadiens, and attended St. Lawrence University on a scholarship to play hockey. He lost his depth perception after he was hit in the left eye with a hockey stick, breaking his orbital bone.[2] Torrey earned a degree in psychology, while also taking business classes. He then worked in Barrie, Ontario, at a radio station, and worked for NBC as a tour guide at Rockefeller Center.[3]

Hockey career[edit]

Oakland Seals[edit]

In the mid-1960s, Torrey began working for the Pittsburgh Hornets of the American Hockey League, setting up promotional events.[3][4] He became general manager of the Oakland Seals, a recently created expansion team in the National Hockey League (NHL), in 1969.[5] The next year, Charlie Finley bought the team. Finley and Torrey clashed on issues ranging from personnel moves to marketing, and Torrey left the organization in 1971.[6]

New York Islanders[edit]

In 1972, the expansion New York Islanders hired Torrey as their general manager, the organization's first employee.[7] Rather than trade for veteran players in hopes of winning right away, Torrey was committed to building through the draft. He felt that pursuing a "win now" strategy didn't make sense in the long run. Torrey drafted Denis Potvin first overall in the 1973 entry draft.[3] Montreal Canadiens General Manager Sam Pollock approached Torrey, hoping to trade for Potvin. Pollock's strategy was to offer a "quick-fix" package of mature players to exchange for the top draft pick, and it was tempting as the Islanders would immediately benefit from the trade. Torrey ultimately turned down the offer. Within several years Potvin blossomed into one of the NHL's elite defencemen and eventually became captain of the team.[8]

In the Islanders' first two seasons, the team finished last in the league. However, those dreadful records netted them high picks in the draft. With those picks, Torrey quickly assembled a roster that rose from a doormat to an NHL power. In the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, Torrey had the 15th pick and had to make a tough decision between two promising forwards, Mike Bossy and Dwight Foster. Bossy was known as a scorer who couldn't check, while Foster could check but wasn't very good offensively. Coach Al Arbour persuaded Torrey to pick Bossy, figuring it was easier to teach a scorer how to check. Bossy immediately emerged as one of the league's elite snipers in his first season, in which he set a then-NHL record with 53 goals as a rookie. Bossy achieved nine consecutive 50-goal seasons, as well as having more than adequate defensive skills.[9]

After helping minority owner John Pickett Jr. buy the franchise in 1979, Torrey was promoted to team president. In 1980, after the Islanders had underachieved in the playoffs for the past few years despite success in the regular season, Torrey made the difficult decision to trade longtime and popular veterans Billy Harris and Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings in return for Butch Goring.[3]

Under Torrey's leadership, the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups: in 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. They won 19 consecutive postseason series.[10] Along the way, he picked future Hall of Fame goalie Billy Smith in the team's original expansion draft and drafted five Hall of Fame players—Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, and Pat LaFontaine—in the entry draft. He also hired as head coach Al Arbour, another Hall of Famer and winner of four Cups as a player.[11]

After LaFontaine demanded a trade and held out for the start of the 1991–92 season, Torrey engineered a rebuilding project. He dealt LaFontaine, Randy Wood, and Randy Hillier (along with future considerations) to the Buffalo Sabres in return for Pierre Turgeon, Benoît Hogue, Uwe Krupp and Dave McLlwain. He also sent captain Brent Sutter and Brad Lauer to the Chicago Blackhawks for Steve Thomas and Adam Creighton.[12] Pickett turned over day-to-day control to a management committee of four minority owners. After the Islanders missed the playoffs in 1992, Torrey was forced to resign.[13]

Florida Panthers[edit]

Torrey was named president of the Florida Panthers, a new expansion team, in 1993. Torrey built his new team similarly to the Islanders, acquiring young talent that included Rob Niedermayer, Ed Jovanovski, Radek Dvořák, and Rhett Warrener.[14] The Panthers made it to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.[15] He retired as president in 2001,[16] but remained with the Panthers as a special advisor.[17]

Honors[edit]

Torrey was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.[18] He is honoured with a banner in Barclays Center along with Al Arbour and six of the players he drafted. Torrey's banner has the words "The Architect" and the image of a bowtie.[19]

On October 23, 2010, the Florida Panthers honoured Torrey by retiring the number 93, and raising a banner in his honour to the rafters. The 93 represents the year (1993) when the Panthers franchise was incorporated into the NHL.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Torrey had four sons, and ten grandchildren. Torrey died at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, on the evening of May 2, 2018.[5][21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Florida Panthers Statement on the passing of William A. Torrey". NHL.com. October 1, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Habib, Hal (June 18, 2014). "Bill Torrey, Panthers' elder statesman, still grinding as he nears 80". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Eskenazi, Gerald (May 17, 1981). "Bill Torrey: Architect Of Hockey'S Best Team – The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  4. ^ "How 'The Chief' helped build the NHL's last true dynasty | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette". Post-gazette.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Former Islanders GM Bill Torrey, known as 'The Architect,' dies". Newsday. March 5, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  6. ^ "How Finley Sealed Barons' – The New York Times". Nytimes.com. February 27, 1977. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  7. ^ TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer. "Bill Torrey, GM of Isles' 4 Stanley Cups, dies at 83". Miami Herald. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  8. ^ Swift, E.M. (October 11, 1982). "Who Would've Thunk? One of the sorriest NHL teams ever, the 1972–73 Islanders, is now the model of how to turn expansion chumps into champ". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  9. ^ Fine, Steven (March 26, 1979). "Appearances Aside, Mike Bossy Isn't a One-Man Hockey Team—Just the Youngest Star of the Powerful Islanders". People. 11 (12). Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  10. ^ 1:30 pm to 5:45 pm (April 29, 2018). "Legendary Islanders GM Bill Torrey Dies | WFAN Sports Radio 66AM 101.9FM". Wfan.radio.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  11. ^ Cyrgalis, Brett. "Bill Torrey, architect of Islanders '80s dynasty, dead at 83". Nypost.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  12. ^ Finn, Robin (October 26, 1991). "HOCKEY; Islanders Start Over by Trading LaFontaine and Sutter – The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  13. ^ Yannis, Alex (August 18, 1992). "HOCKEY; Cablevision Buys Islanders, and the Torrey Era Ends – The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  14. ^ Nobles, Charlie (December 12, 1995). "HOCKEY;A Rats-to-Riches Tale – The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  15. ^ "Bill Torrey, longtime Florida Panthers executive, dies at 83". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  16. ^ McPherson, Jordan. "First Florida Panthers president Bill Torrey dies at 83". Miami Herald. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  17. ^ Steve Simmons (January 25, 2016). "Dynasty architects Tallon, Torrey at it again with Panthers". Toronto Sun. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  18. ^ Lapointe, Joe (October 1, 1995). "'95–'96 N.H.L.; Seven New Coaches, Two New Arenas, an Adieu to Winnipeg – The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  19. ^ Peter Botte. "Bill Torrey, Islanders' first GM and architect of 1980s Stanley Cup dynasty, dead at 83". NY Daily News. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  20. ^ Richards, George (October 22, 2010). "Bill Torrey Gets Another Banner: Panthers to honor Team Founding Father | On Frozen Pond". Miamiherald.typepad.com. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  21. ^ Goldstein, Richard (May 3, 2018). "Bill Torrey, Who Brought the Stanley Cup to Long Island, Is Dead at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2018.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Frank Selke Jr.
General Manager of the Oakland Seals
1970
Succeeded by
Fred Glover
Preceded by
Position created
General Manager of the New York Islanders
197292
Succeeded by
Don Maloney
Preceded by
Bryan Murray
General Manager of the Florida Panthers
2000–01
Succeeded by
Chuck Fletcher