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Torrey pledges allegiance to Panthers

Architect of Islanders dynasty says his heart now belongs to Florida

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Bill Torrey shared some stories Tuesday, recounting Stanley Cup Playoff moments from the New York Islanders' memorable run in the early 1980s.

Torrey played a big role in that success as the Islanders' architect, a role that was recognized by his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

That's ancient history, though, the vest with a Florida Panthers logo he was wearing Tuesday all the proof you need.

These days, Torrey is a special adviser to the general manager and alternate governor for the Panthers. He still keeps tabs on the Islanders and wants them to succeed, just not in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against his current team.

Game 1 is Thursday at BB&T Center (8 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-F, SN, TVA Sports 2).

"Fortunately or unfortunately, I still have three sons that work on the Island and I have 10 grandchildren up there, some of whom root for the Islanders and maybe a couple of them will root for me," Torrey said. "But I haven't taken a poll, so I don't know how I stand.

"I always look and see how they're doing, no question. And if I don't, I get reminded by my relatives. But let's make it clear, I know where my allegiances are and have been for a good many years. So there's no doubt about that."

Torrey has been honored by each franchise; the Islanders put up a banner recognizing him at Nassau Coliseum and the Panthers retired the jersey No. 93 - their first year of existence - and hung it up at BB&T Center with his name on it.

Torrey first joined the Panthers as president in 1993, which happens to be the last time the Islanders won a playoff series. The Panthers haven't won one since they made a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

One of those droughts will end this year, although Torrey wishes it could be both.

"I'd rather play them in the Finals," Torrey said. "To me now, I want to win a series and that's the most important thing. They've had some tough times, so we've been both been through that, but once the puck drops and this series starts, you don't think about what's been, you think about today and tomorrow."

Torrey sees similarities between the current Panthers and the Islanders teams that won four consecutive Stanley Cup titles from 1980-83, mainly how each were built through the draft.

 "Yeah, because the Islanders were built on scratch and in a sense this team has been built from scratch a couple of times," he said. "And this time it's scratching pretty good."

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