New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Hockey

Bill Torrey

(Hockey. Born, Montreal, PQ, June 23, 1932.)  A hockey executive, William Arthur Torrey played a leading role in constructing one the most successful  dynasties in New York sports history. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, Torrey worked for the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets. He then became vice president of the NHL’s year-old Oakland Seals before the 1968-69 season.  During Torrey’s three years there, the Seals qualified for the playoffs twice.  Torrey left the Seals after the 1970-71 season and on February 15, 1972, became the first general manager of the expansion  Islanders, who began play that October.  Torrey in the mid- to late 1970s drafted future Hall of Famers Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, and Mike Bossy. These players anchored the Islanders from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s, forming the core of the teams that won four consecutive Stanley Cups. Torrey also acquired goaltender Billy Smith, whose play was vital to the Islanders’ fourteen straight winning seasons (1974-75 to 1987-88).  Notable for his ubiquitous bow tie, Torrey saw his teams win a record 19 consecutive playoff series – four in each of the four Stanley Cup-winning series and three more in 1984, when the Islanders reached the final before losing to Edmonton.   Torrey left the Islanders to become  the first president of the 1993 expansion Florida Panthers, helping them reach the Stanley Cup final in 1996. Torrey was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995. – By Jacob Kaczynski

Ott Heller

Ott Heller  (Hockey.  Born, Kitchener, Ont., June 2, 1910; died, Kitchener, Ont., June 16, 1980.) Ehrhardt Henry Heller was a defenseman who played 647 regular-season games for the Rangers (1931-46) and was a member of the 1933 and 1940 Stanley Cup champions.  Heller had a long career in the minors, notably in the A.H.L., playing until 1956, often as a playing coach.  He scored 231 points for the Rangers, with 55 goals (eight in 1943-44).

Roy Worters

Roy Worters (Hockey.  Born, Toronto, Ont., Oct. 19, 1900; died, Toronto, Ont., Nov. 7, 1957.)  Known as “Shrimp” because of his 5’3”, 135-pound stature, Roy Worters was also one of the best N.H.L. goaltenders of the 1920s and 1930s.  Worters was the goalie for the Pittsburgh amateur team that joined the N.H.L. in 1925.  On Nov. 1, 1928, he was traded to the Americans for Joe Miller and $20,000 but refused to report to New York.  Worters was suspended for nearly a month before agreeing to join the Amerks.  Once he arrived, he posted 13 shutouts in 38 games, allowed just 46 goals (1.21 per game) and lifted the Starshirts into the playoffs.  Worters produced nearly 150 minutes of shutout hockey in the playoffs but the Americans were eliminated, 1-0, by the Rangers on Butch Keeling’s goal at 9:50 of the second overtime of the second game of their two-game, total-goals series Mar. 21, 1929.  The little goalie won the Hart Trophy as the N.H.L.’s most valuable player in 1930-31.  That year, Worters had eight shutouts and a 1.61 goals-against average, topped the league in minutes, and won the Vezina Trophy for allowing the fewest goals.  After playing every game (48 each season) for two straight seasons, Worters was sideline by hernia surgery Jan. 25, 1937, 23 games into that season, and never returned.  He had a 119-150-71 record in nine years but his record says more about his team than his abilities.

Gump Worsley

Gump Worsley (Hockey.  Born, Montreal, P.Q., May 14, 1929; died, Beloeil, P.Q., Jan. 26, 2007.)  As a good goalie on mostly mediocre teams, Lorne John Worsley was the Rangers’ principal netminder for a decade.  (Once, when asked which team gave him the most trouble, he said, “The Rangers.”)  Worsley came to the Rangers in 1952-53 (50 games) from the Western Hockey League, earned Rookie of the Year honors, and went back to the W.H.L. in 1953-54 and Johnny Bower minded the Rangers nets.  He returned for good in 1954-55 and played another 532 games through 1962-63.  Four teams made the playoffs in the six-team N.H.L. of those days, and Worsley’s Rangers made it four times.  He was often spectacular in losing situations.  On Apr. 5, 1962, in the fifth game of a first-round series at Toronto, Worsley made 56 saves but the Rangers lost, 3-2, in double overtime.  In his years with the Rangers, Worsley had 24 shutouts with a goals-against average generally around 3.00.  He led the N.H.L. in games (70) and minutes (4,200) in 1955-56, and again with 67 and 3980 in 1962-63.  Worsley was traded to Montreal June 4, 1963, in a seven-player deal that brought Jacques Plante to New York along with center Phil Goyette and winger Don Marshall.  With Montreal, he played on four Stanley Cup champions in five years.  One of the last maskless goalies, Worsley played four seasons with the Minnesota North Stars before retiring in 1974.

Charles Wang

Charles Wang (Hockey.  Born, Shanghai, China, Aug. 19, 1944.)  Since coming to the U.S. in 1952, Charles B. Wang has become one of leading computer developers in the New York area. On Apr. 26, 2000, Wang and his partner, Sanjay Kumar, announced their purchase of the Islanders for $187.5 million even though he lists basketball as his principal sports interest. Wang and Kumar, following their approval by the N.H.L. Board of Governors, committed to upgrading the franchise, which had gone through four owners in four years.  On Nov. 1, 2000, the pair and a business associate purchased the Iowa team in the Arena Football League for some $7 million, announced that it was being moved to Long Island and renamed the New York Dragons.  That team went out of business when the league folded in 2008.  Wang bought out Kumar’s interest in the Islanders in 2004.  Wang was the chairman and chief executive officer of Computer Associates International, Inc., in Islandia from 1976 until his retirement in November 2002. He is a graduate of Queens College and is the author of several books on computer use, one of which has been translated into seven languages.  Wang has tried to spearhead a renovation of Nassau Coliseum and the surrounding area, but his attempt to have the Nassau County commit $400 million to a bond issue for the so-called Lighthouse Project was defeated by county voters on Aug. 1, 2011, 57%-43%.  Since Wang bought the team, the Islanders have made the playoffs four times and never advanced past the first round.

Bryan Trottier

Bryan Trottier (Hockey.  Born, Val Marie, Sask., July 17, 1956.)  Thought by many to be the best all-around forward ever for the Islanders, Bryan John Trottier is the team’s career leader in points with 1,353 in 1,123 games.  Trottier was an excellent passer who still scored 500 career goals in his 15 seasons (1975-90) with the Islanders.  He was considered by most observers to have played a major role in Mike Bossy’s goal-scoring success.  Trottier, a tough center, was certainly a key to the Islanders’ four straight Stanley Cup triumphs.  He scored 64 goals with 106 assists in 175 playoff games for the Islanders.  Trottier had 16 career hat tricks, including two five-goal games.  His first five-goal night was an eight-point effort on Dec. 23, 1978, against the Rangers.  That night, he set an N.H.L. record that still stands with six points (four goals) in one period (the second).  His second five-goal game came Feb. 13, 1982, against Philadelphia during his career-best 50-goal season.  Trottier had five successive 100-point seasons (1977-78 through 1981-82), but his best season may have been 1983-84, when he posted 40 goals and 111 points though limited to 68 games by injury.  The N.H.L. Rookie of the Year in 1975-76, he led the N.H.L. in assists in 1977-78 (with 77) and 1978-79 (87) and won the Art Ross Trophy that season as the league’s high scorer (134 points).  He was the league M.V.P. that year as well.  He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1979-80 as the playoff M.V.P. and played in eight All-Star Games.  Released by the Islanders, he signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh and ultimately played parts of three seasons there, helping the Penguins win two Stanley Cups.  Trottier was an Islanders assistant coach (1992-93) and later an assistant at Pittsburgh and Colorado.  He was hired as Rangers head coach June 6, 2002, but served less than a season, dismissed Jan. 29, 2003 with a 21-26-6-1 record.

John Tonelli

John Tonelli (Hockey.  Born, Hamilton, Ont., Mar. 23, 1957.)  When the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association folded, John A. Tonelli became the W.H.A.’s gift to the Islanders.  Tonelli went on to set a club record for scoring by a left wing (42 goals, 100 points) for the Isles in 1984-85.  Playing on the “Banana Line” (with center Wayne Merrick and right wing Bobby Nystrom (q.v.)), he was also a key part of the Islanders’ run of four Stanley Cup championships (1980-83).  In the 1982 playoffs, Tonelli saved the two-time defending champions team from first-round elimination, scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period of the deciding fifth game at home against Pittsburgh and then tallying the game-winner in overtime.  He was traded to Calgary on Mar. 11, 1986.  In his nearly eight seasons with the Islanders, Tonelli collected 206 goals and 338 assists for 544 points.  On Jan. 6, 1981, Tonelli became only the second Islander to have a five-goal game, beating Toronto’s Jiri Crha in a 6-3 victory, and on Feb. 20, 1982, he scored with 47 seconds left in the game to give the Islanders a 3-2 win over Colorado and a then N.H.L.-record 15-game winning streak (when games still ended after 60 minutes of play, and each time was awarded one point for a tie).  Of perhaps even greater importance to the Islanders, he set up Nystrom for the goal that won the 1980 Cup Final against Philadelphia in Game 6.  Tonelli played three seasons with Houston (1975-78) and twice made the W.H.A. All-Star team.  After leaving the Islanders, he played with Calgary, Los Angeles, and Quebec, retiring in 1992.

Larry Robinson

Larry Robinson (Hockey.  Born, Winchester, Ont., June 2, 1951.)  An All-Star defenseman with Montreal, Larry Robinson served two terms as head coach of the Devils.  Robinson first became bench boss when Robbie Ftorek was fired Mar. 23, 2000, and Robinson was promoted from assistant coach.  He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup, the team’s second, that season, and to the Cup final in 2001, which the Devils lost in seven games to Colorado.  Robinson was replaced by Kevin Constantine Jan. 28, 2002, but returned later that season as an assistant to Constantine when assistant coach John Cunniff was diagnosed with cancer.  He then became a special assignment coach for the Devils, working primarily with the minor league Albany farm team.  On July 14, 2005, Robinson succeeded Pat Burns, who was forced to step down by a second cancer diagnosis.  But after only 32 games, he stepped down for good as head coach Dec. 21, 2005, citing stress.  As a player, Robinson had 1,384 N.H.L. games in 20 seasons (1972-92), the last three with Los Angeles.  He played for six Cup champions at Montreal, was a 10-time All-Star, and twice won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman.  Robinson scored 208 goals with 750 assists before retiring.  He became an assistant coach for the Devils in 1993, was head man in Los Angeles from 1995-99 (121-161-45) and then returned to New Jersey as an assistant (1999-2000). Robinson was 73-49-19 in his first tour as Devils head coach.

Jean Ratelle

Jean Ratelle (Hockey.  Born, Lac Ste. Jean, P.Q., Oct. 3, 1940.)  An ankle fracture cost him part of what is, by one measure (points per game), still the greatest point-scoring season in Rangers history, but Joseph Gilbert Yves Jean Ratelle remains among the best centers ever to play for the team.  In 1971-72, Ratelle had 46 goals and 63 assists for a team-record 109 points in 63 games, but missed the final 15 games of the season thanks to a broken ankle from teammate Dale Rolfe’s slapshot.  A smooth, graceful skater and gentlemanly player (he won the Lady Byng Trophy twice), Ratelle also holds team records for most 30-goal seasons (six) and successive 40-goal seasons (1971-72 and 1972-73, when he had 41).  For years, he pivoted the famous GAG (Goal-a-Game) line flanked on his left by Vic Hadfield, the Rangers’ first-ever 50-goal scorer (1971-72), and on his right by childhood friend Rod Gilbert.  Ratelle was a product of the Rangers organization who first played for the parent club in 1960-61 (three games).  For the first five years of his career, he bobbed up and down betweem the Rangers and their minor-league clubs.  In 1965-66, he became a Rangers regular and the following season the Rangers made the playoffs for the first of nine consecutive seasons.  In what was then generally considered the most spectacular trade in N.H.L. history, Ratelle and Brad Park (q.v.) were both dealt to Boston Nov. 7, 1975 (with throw-in Joe Zanussi), for center Phil Esposito (q.v.) and defenseman Carol Vadnais.  He played on six more playoff teams in Boston before retiring after the 1980-81 season.  In his Rangers career, Ratelle had 336 goals and 481 assists in 862 games.  During the 1972 run to the Stanley Cup final, he returned from his ankle injury only for the final series against Boston but was not really ready and had only one assist as the Rangers lost in six games.

Scott Stevens

Scott Stevens (Hockey.  Born, Kitchener, Ont., Apr. 1, 1964.)  Considered by many to be the key to three Stanley Cup champions, defenseman Ronald Scott Stevens may be the most important compensation choice in N.H.L. history.  Stevens signed as a free agent with St. Louis from Washington and was named team captain in 1990.  When St. Louis signed high-scoring left wing Brendan Shanahan July 25, 1991, the Devils demanded Stevens as compensation.  On Sept. 3, they were awarded Stevens in a landmark arbitration decision.  Shanahan had two 50-goal seasons for St. Louis and later played for Hartford and Detroit.  But New Jersey gained the most important single piece of the team that was to win the Cup in 1995, 2000, and 2003.  Something of a wild man early in his career, Stevens was Washington’s first pick in the 1982 entry draft.  He racked up 195 penalty minutes as a rookie and exceeded 200 in four of the next seven seasons with the team (283 in 77 games in 1986-87).  By contrast, Stevens broke 100 minutes only twice in 10 years with the Devils starting with the lockout season of 1994-95.  On Sept. 25, 1992, he became the Devils captain and provided solid defense, powerful checking, and inspirational leadership for a team that became a regular candidate to go deep into the playoffs.  In Game 3 of the Devils’ 2003 semifinal against Tampa Bay, Stevens was hit in the side of the head by a Pavel Kubina slapshot.  He left the game but played in every game thereafter as the Devils won their third Cup in nine seasons.  But, suffering from post-concussion syndrome, Stevens played his last game Pittsburgh Jan. 7, 2004.  Not surprisingly, the Devils were eliminated the first round of the playoffs that year.  Stevens had planned to return to the Devils in 2004-05, but an owners’ lockout cancelled the season, and Stevens retired Sept. 6, 2005 as the league’s leader in games played by a defenseman.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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