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Longtime Islanders fan William 'Mr. Bill' Hayes dies

Longtime Islanders fan William

Longtime Islanders fan William "Mr. Bill" Hayes, of Merrick, shown with former Islanders player Bob Nystrom, died July 28, 2010, at the TownHouse Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Uniondale after a two-year battle with lymphatic cancer. He was 85.
Newsday's obituary for William Hayes
Credit: Handout

To call William Hayes an Islanders fan would be an understatement.

For more than 37 years, since the Islanders' inception in 1972, Hayes, known as "Mr. Bill" to the Islanders community, had missed only four home games - and that was only due to illness.

He even had his own seat in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum: seat 11 in section 309, row B, where he diligently took notes on scores and even who stepped on and off the ice.

"He was a databank," said nephew Ed Hayes Jr., 53, of Hanau, Germany. "He knew all of the statistics, the history of the league, the players, their scores, everything."

Hayes, of Merrick, died Wednesday at the TownHouse Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Uniondale after a two-year battle with lymphatic cancer. He was 85.

"Personally, I've never met a bigger Islander fan than Bill Hayes," said Bob Nystrom, a retired Islander. "It didn't matter if it was below 40 degrees outside, he always met me and kept telling me to keep skating."

Hayes frequently told the story - among many of his favorite to tell - of Nystrom's overtime goal in the finals against the Philadelphia Flyers that earned the Islanders their first Stanley Cup, said Frances Miller, his caretaker at The Meadows at Mitchel Field senior living community.

She said Nystrom paid a visit to Hayes while he was in the nursing home - a visit that meant the world to one of his biggest fans.

As a reward for not missing a single game for over 22 seasons, Hayes was chosen to drop the puck at center ice during a home game in 1995. He was inducted into the Islanders Fan Hall of Fame.

"He was the most diligent person, and diligent fan," said his brother, Edward Hayes Sr., 84, of DeBary, Fla., who added that his brother made attending away games a priority. "He'd go to St. Louis for an away game and fly back immediately for the home game."

Hayes's motto was "Keep skating," as a way to motivate people never to give up "because the game is not over yet," his family said.

"That was him. He never gave up. He did his best and worked his hardest to the end," said his nephew, Ed Hayes.

Hayes was born in Brooklyn. He was a medic technician for the Army during World War II from 1943 to 1946.

He became a security officer at Bankers Trust in New York City, where he worked 20 years until his retirement.

According to his family, he orchestrated his entire schedule around the Islanders, working late-night shifts in order to attend and stay for entire games.

Hayes is survived by his brother, Edward, and several nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass will be offered Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Cure of Ars Roman Catholic Church in Merrick.

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