Mr. William A. Torrey, the Florida Panthers Special Advisor to the General Manager passed away on May 2, 2018. Torrey was 83.
Born on June 23, 1934 in Montreal, Quebec, Mr. Torrey was a mainstay in the National Hockey League for 51 years, serving as an executive for three different NHL expansion franchises, the Oakland Seals (1968-1971), New York Islanders (1972-1993) and Florida Panthers (1993-2018).
Selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995, Mr. Torrey collected four Stanley Cups with the Islanders and helped lead two different franchises to the Stanley Cup Final, making a total of six Stanley Cup Final appearances. He was affectionately nicknamed "Bow Tie Bill" for his affinity for wearing bow ties.
Named the Panthers inaugural President on April 19, 1993, by the upstart franchise's founding owner H. Wayne Huizenga, Mr. Torrey held the position for the club's first nine seasons. Under Mr. Torrey's guidance and direction he helped assemble Florida's first roster for the 1993-94 season, a team that set expansion club records for wins (33), points (83) and winning percentage (.494).
In 1995-96, Florida's third season, the Panthers became the fastest post 1967-expansion team in NHL history to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
On Oct. 23, 2010, the Panthers honored Mr. Torrey before their game against the New York Islanders by retiring the number 93 to the rafters of BB&T Center. The number 93 was chosen as it signifies the founding year of the Panthers and Mr. Torrey's lasting legacy on the organization. It marked the first number ever to be retired by the club.
The same year, Mr. Torrey led the search for Florida's new General Manager and was responsible for the selection of former Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon to lead and reshape the Panthers organization. During Tallon's tenure with Florida, Mr. Torrey worked alongside him as a Special Advisor.
A graduate of St. Lawrence University, where he studied business and psychology, Mr. Torrey's career in hockey began in the mid-1960's handling marketing for the American Hockey League's Pittsburgh Hornets.
As the NHL expanded in 1967, the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals franchise began to restructure following their first season and hired Mr. Torrey as the club's Executive Vice President, a role that evolved into his first stint as General Manager. After two playoff seasons with the Seals, Torrey left the franchise to join the expansion New York Islanders in 1972.
On February 15, 1972, Mr. Torrey was named the New York Islanders inaugural General Manager and the franchise's first employee. His approach to building the Islanders was a methodical strategy focused on youth and the NHL Draft. This philosophy coupled with the hiring of Hockey Hall of Fame Head Coach Al Arbour led to the construction of a dynasty on Long Island that resulted in four consecutive Stanley Cups (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983), five consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances and six Patrick Division titles.
Under Torrey, six Islanders players who went on to be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame (Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Pat LaFontaine, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier). Of those six players, Torrey drafted five of them.
Torrey is survived by his four sons, William, Richard, Peter and Arthur, his brother, David, his sister, Jane; and his 10 grandchildren.
The Florida Panthers are forever grateful for Mr. Torrey's tireless efforts and tremendous contributions to the foundation of the Panthers organization.