An important member of the National Hockey League community has passed away on Thursday. Longtime NHL executive Bill Torrey, a former general manager and president in the league, has passed away at the age of 83.
Torrey was especially well known for winning four Stanley Cups as the general manager of the New York Islanders and was the first president of the Florida Panthers.
In 1972, the expansion New York Islanders hired Torrey as their GM, who began consequently their first employee. He built the organization from scratch, in the shadows of the much more established New York Rangers. He added the title of vice-president in 1973. Through the draft and young players, Torrey build a young team that lasted through time.
In 1980, the Islanders won the Stanley Cup in only their eighth season of existence. Under Torrey, the Islanders won six Patrick Division titles, made five consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup finals, and won four Cups in a row 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983. His clubs had 14 consecutive winning seasons, from 1975–1988.
After the Islanders missed the playoffs in 1992, Torrey was forced to resign, but not long after, Torrey was named president of the Florida Panthers, a new expansion team, in 1993. Torrey built his new team similarly to the Islanders, and within three years, the Panthers were in the Stanley Cup finals. He retired in 2001.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman today released the following statement regarding the passing of Torrey:
“William A. Torrey passed away at his home in Florida last evening. The National Hockey League mourns the passing of a true legend of our game, the incomparable Bill Torrey.
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.”
Many other executives, players, reporters and friends have taken to social media to share the passing of their friend and their love for him.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.