Thursday afternoon it was announced that Hall of Famer, and legendary Islanders GM, William A. Torrey, otherwise known as “Bow-Tie Bill” or “The Architect” passed away at the age of 83.
Bill Torrey was born in June of 1934 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His hockey career began in the AHL when he joined the Pittsburgh Hornets as the team’s business manager in 1960. However his skill and talent soon found him in the NHL as the Executive Vice President of the team then known as the Oakland Seals (which later became the California Golden Seals). He stayed with the team until the middle of the 1970-1971 season. It was then that Torrey’s biggest and most daunting job yet would come to play.
Torrey became the first General Manager of the newly created New York Islanders in 1972. When he first came to manage the Islanders during their inaugural season the team set NHL records for the fewest points in a season. However, that soon changed and just two years later in the 1974 -75 season the team managed to make it to game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the semi-finals. That same match up just five seasons later led the Islanders to their first Stanley Cups victory. The team then went on to win three more Stanley Cups over the course of the next three seasons under the leadership of Torrey.
Bill Torrey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995 as a “Builder.” The builder category recognizes someone who has enhanced the game and helped to move the sport forward. While this is certainly true of Torrey, he was also a “builder” in another regard. Torrey, nicknamed “The Architect”, was responsible for building a team that became a dynasty. He drafted five players during his time with the team who would go on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. These players included Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, and Pat LaFontaine. Additionally he was able to secure Billy Smith during the 1972 NHL expansion draft. Smith also went on to become a hall of fame goaltender. In addition to his talent scouting abilities, he also had a keen eye for leadership. Torrey was responsible for the hiring of perhaps one of the most famous coaches in Islanders, and perhaps even NHL history, Al Arbour.
After Torrey left the Islanders in 1992 he soon found himself at the helm once again of an expansion team, this time it was the Florida Panthers. Torrey was named President of the newly formed Florida Panthers in their inaugural season and just three years later his team earned a spot in the Stanley Cup finals against the Colorado Avalanche. He left the team after nine seasons but remained on duty as a special adviser to the General Manager.
Bill Torrey was beloved by many across the NHL. Current Islanders General Manager, Garth Snow spoke Thursday afternoon about the hall of fame builder. “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. 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.”