William Arthur Torrey was born in 1934 in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up on Atwater Avenue, almost in the shadow of the Montreal Forum, home of the Montreal Canadiens.
The Torreys are a devoted St. Lawrence family and generous benefactors of the university; his parents: Arthur Starratt and Josephine Leonard Torrey were members of the Class of 1924. His siblings: Barbara, David, and Jane, and many of their children, are also Laurentians.
Bill’s ice skills enabled him to play on St. Lawrence hockey teams in 1954-55 and 1955-56 – years in which the “Larries,” as they were called, were among the dominant squads in Eastern US College Hockey.
Following graduation, Bill and his new family located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he became involved in management of the Hornets of the American Hockey League. His judgment and administrative talent soon took him to the position of assistant director of hockey operations and then vice president of the NHL’s expansion Oakland Seals, later the California Golden Seals. In this role he was key in building the fledgling franchise into genuine playoff contenders.
In 1972 Bill was hired as General Manager, and soon vice president of the newly minted NHL New York Islanders. To him fell the formidable task of building a competitive team virtually from scratch. While early successes were predictably few, these lowly finishes provided prime draft-pick opportunities; Bill’s patient, astute choices gradually jelled into a formidable ensemble, and the Islanders became one of the dominant teams of the late ‘70s. In 1980 the Isles annexed their first of four consecutive Stanley Cup triumphs, and are remembered today as one of the NHL’s great dynasties, with 14 consecutive winning seasons from 1975 to 1988. Bill was promoted to team president in 1979, and in 1989 to chairman of the board.
In 1993 Bill as named president of the Florida Panthers, an expansion team based in the Miami area. Once again, he built a contender with astute draft choices, and in three years the Panthers were in the Stanley Cup finals. He retired from active management in 2001.
In Islander territory today Bill is revered, and known as “The Architect.” In Florida, a banner hangs from the arena rafters with his name and “93” thereon, the year he became affiliated with the franchise. Around the NHL he is remembered for his bow ties, a preference inherited from his father, but even more as one of the league’s greatest executives. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1995.
Bill Torrey has brought great honor to his alma mater. In every way, he is a Legend of Appleton.