The New York Islanders organization mourns the loss of Bill Torrey, the first general manager in franchise history, who passed away on Wednesday night at the age of 83.
Known as “the architect” of the Islanders’ dynasty during the early 1980s, Torrey implemented a strategy predicated on roster construction internally through player development and the draft. Among Torrey’s notable selections were Denis Potvin (first overall in 1973), Bryan Trottier, (22nd overall in 1974), and Mike Bossy (15th overall in 1977).
Led by head coach Al Arbour, the Islanders crafted one of the NHL’s most storied dynasties, capturing four consecutive Stanley Cups and a league-record 19 consecutive playoff series between 1980 and 1984. Their dominance endured through the decade, including a stretch in which the Islanders earned playoff qualification in 15 out of 16 seasons, and six Patrick Division crowns, ending with the 1989-90 campaign.
Torrey engineered another rebuilding effort in 1991 when he traded prized center Pat LaFontaine to the Buffalo Sabres for Pierre Turgeon, Uwe Krupp, and Benoit Hogue. The acquisition led to a unexpected playoff run during the 1992-93 season, as the Islanders eliminated the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round before falling to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Bill set the model for how to build a franchise with the leadership he instilled through his coaching staff, his innovative drafting methods and the trades he executed,” Islanders President and General Manager Garth Snow said in a statement put out by the club. “He was a pioneer, who became a mentor and even better friend, to so many in the industry. The teams he constructed set records that may never be broken, including the four straight Stanley Cup Championships and 19 straight playoff series wins. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to Bill’s family.”
Succeeded by Don Maloney as Islanders’ general manager in the early 1990s, Torrey quickly joined the expansion Florida Panthers as team president and used his acumen for talent evaluation to quickly build a contender from scratch. In just their third season of existence, the Panthers became the fastest expansion team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche in a four game sweep. Torrey earned induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995 and remained with the Panthers in an advisory role until his death.
Upon learning of his passing, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement in memory of Torrey and the enduring legacy he created with the Islanders’ and Panthers’ organizations:
“Bill was the first employee, general manager and architect of one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history – the New York Islanders, winners of four straight Stanley Cups. He was the first president of the Florida Panthers and built the organization into one of the most successful expansion franchises in League history – the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Final in just their third season of existence. And his imprint is on virtually every team in our League, as he personally mentored and inspired generations of NHL general managers who have followed him and established the team-building blueprint based upon scouting, drafting and player development that today remains the model for lasting success.
“It is no wonder that he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and was the recipient of a Lester Patrick Award.
“From his iconic bow tie, retired by the Islanders organization, to his devilish sense of humor, he truly was one of a kind. He grew up in close proximity to NHL greatness, near the Montreal Forum, where his passion for the game at all levels developed at an early age. He attended as many games as he could in junior rinks, where he was as at home as at an NHL Board of Governors meeting – and his counsel was sought out at both.
“On a personal level, Bill was a close and cherished friend and a great source of counsel. I will miss his wit, wisdom and warmth.
“We send our condolences to Bill’s four sons, William, Richard, Peter and Arthur; to his brother, David, and sister, Jane; and to his 10 grandchildren. And we have no doubt that Bill’s passing also is being mourned by the countless executives, coaches and players whom he inspired, guided and personally developed; and the millions of fans who were thrilled by the teams he built.”