Panthers' Torrey gets his rafter spot

One of those classic Trivial Pursuit questions for the ages: who was the first member of the Florida Panthers to have a number retired to the rafters of the BankAtlantic Center? Scott Mellanby? Brian Skrudland? John Vanbiesbrouck?

Worthy folks all, but none quite ready for the spotlight more than the gentleman honored Saturday night.

After seventeen years of service in various - and remarkably exceptional - capacities with the Florida Panthers, current alternate governor (and West Palm Beach resident) Bill Torrey was rewarded with the first retired number in franchise history: appropriately, "93".

(Well, he was actually the second, but none of us asked for that one.)

No one within the organization has been witness to every draft pick, trade, or waiver movement deeper than Mr. Torrey. Ever a staunch supporter of the club during even its most dire periods, "Bow Tie Bill" hung in through ownership issues and management infighting with the singular goal of making the Panthers a dominant franchise in every measurable way.

One of the first hires by club founder H. Wayne Huizenga in the spring of 1993, Torrey immediately reached out to the best available talent, tabbing hard-nosed former (and future) Flyers legend Bobby Clarke as the club's first general manager and the late Roger Neilson - the pre-eminent video practitioner of his day - as head coach.

Later hires would involve longtime NHL standards such as Bryan Murray, several Sutters, and current GM Dale Tallon.

In a history of (let's be honest) turmoil, Torrey has been the one constant, that singular beacon of respectability, which every professional organization strives to hire. No matter how many losses stack up, players who demand out, or drafts that fizzle within a year, Mr. Torrey has remained far above any controversy.

This is a "character hire" which cannot be found on today's NHL mean streets. He may be advancing in age, but his strategy is sound: build around solid guys committed to a "team-first philosophy". Sounds rather familiar to Tallon's winning concoction.

Regardless of when you became/morphed into a Panthers fan, we all owe a debt of honor to William Torrey.

Oh, and he did a few good things for the Islanders as well...