Bill Torrey put together arguably one of the top dynasties in National Hockey League history before helping build an expansion team in South Florida from the ground up.
His trademark bow tie and nickname “The Architect” will be his lasting memories to the hockey world. Torrey died in his West Palm Beach home Wednesday. He was 83. According to the New York Times, his death was confirmed by his son Richard Torrey, who said he did not know the cause.
Torrey, a Montreal native who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995, was at the helm of the New York Islanders dynasty that dominated hockey in the 1980s and could be considered the best dynasty to ever come through the NHL ranks. As general manager, he was the franchise’s first employee in 1972. The Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983 and had 14 winning seasons in a row from 1975 to 1988.
“From his iconic bow tie, retired by the Islanders organization, to his devilish sense of humor, he truly was one of a kind,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wrote in a statement Thursday, adding that “his imprint is on virtually every team in our league.”
Fast forward to 1993, and Torrey found himself as the president and general manager of the Florida Panthers, an expansion franchise bringing the sport of hockey to South Florida.
Just three short years later, the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
“We’re shocked and heartbroken by the news of William ‘Bill’ Torrey’s passing and extend our deepest condolences to his four sons and grandchildren,” Panthers owner Vincent J. Viola wrote in a statement. “An original Panther and the forefather of our franchise, Mr. Torrey had a champion’s spirit and lived for the game. His indomitable energy and his commitment to hockey and to South Florida was inspiring. It was an honor to work with him and know him.”
Torrey retired from his post as president and GM in 2001 but has worked as a special advisor to current general manager Dale Tallon. In a statement, Tallon referred to Torrey as “a giant of our game.”
“Bill was a mentor and a dear friend who was instrumental in bringing me to South Florida to work alongside him,” Tallon wrote. “He was a wonderful person who never lost his passion for the game and loved being at the rink. I am proud to have worked with him, and I will always be grateful for his support and friendship. He was a legend and the original Panther. I send my deepest condolences to his family and many friends. Bill’s tremendous legacy will never be forgotten.”
Torrey’s No. 93 is one of two numbers retired by the Panthers franchise, along with original owner H. Wayne Huizenga’s No. 37. Huizenga died in March at the age of 80.
Torrey is survived by four sons, a brother, a sister and 10 grandchildren.