I lost another part of my childhood today with the passing of legendary Islander general manager Bill Torrey.
Torrey assembled the squad that won 19 straight playoff series and four consecutive Stanley Cups, building an expansion team from 12-60-6 in 1972-73 to Stanley Cup champs just seven seasons later.
Torrey stepped down as Islander GM in the summer of 1992, when the team was in the process of being sold to the group that became known as "The Gang of 4". Torrey remained a consultant for a time and then served as the President of the Florida Panthers, getting that team to the Stanley Cup Final in just their second season. Torrey remained a member of the Panthers organization the rest of his life; he was most recently a special assistant to the general manager.
Back in 2004, I happened to be in Florida for an Islander game with the Panthers. By good fortune I ended up in an elevator with both Al Arbour and Torrey, and got a chance to say "thanks" for all of those childhood memories. I shared those same thoughts with Claire Arbour the night the Coliseum hosted the "final" regular season game in 2015 and again with Torrey during the 2016 playoffs.
I often joked that Torrey made only a single mistake in the Cup era -- and it involved me. In the summer of 1981, a rising High School senior was invited in to the Islanders' office as the team needed a new statistician to replace Jay Arbour, who had moved to Colorado. I had a nice interview with the Islander PR staff and left confident that I was going to have an amazing senior year of high school.
By the time I got home, Mr. Torrey had called my home and asked my mother if she knew where I had been. She said "Of course, Mr. Torrey, he was in your office." Mr. Torrey then confirmed I still had a year to go in high school and decided the team needed to go a different way. Five months later I was added to the telecasts and that May, my amazing senior year of high school included riding in the Stanley Cup parade down Hempstead Turnpike (thanks Jean Potvin!)
In 2006, I had the honor of writing the script for Jiggs' introduction of the 1980 Cup Winners. Here's how we introduced Torrey.
HE WAS THE FIRST EMPLOYEE OF THE ISLANDERS AND WAS WITH THE FRANCHISE FOR TWO DECADES, LEADING THE TEAM FROM A 12-60-6 RECORD IN THEIR FIRST SEASON TO A RUN OF CHAMPIONSHIPS THAT HAS GONE UNEQUALED IN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS IN THE LAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS.
RIGHTLY KNOWN AS THE ARCHITECT, HE DRAFTED SIXTEEN OF THE PLAYERS THAT WE WILL HONOR TONIGHT.
HE IS A MEMBER OF THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME AND HIS FAMED BOW – TIE WAS RETIRED BY THE ISLANDERS IN TWO-THOUSAND-ONE.
Ladies and Gentlemen: BILL TORREY
May be rest in peace.