Tim Ryan has two Stanley Cup rings from the Islanders, from 1979-80 and ’80-81, but he does not wear them. He believes that is not the place of a mere television play-by-play announcer.
But his contribution to the Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s goes far beyond that role. It turns out the announcer helped “The Architect” get the job that started it all.
Ryan was working as a sports anchor at WPIX in New York in the early 1970s when he interviewed Roy Boe, the owner of an NHL expansion team headed for Long Island.
“He was a huge basketball fan but knew nothing about hockey,” Ryan said recently from his home in Victoria, British Columbia.
But Boe did know that Ryan, who grew up in Toronto and called Oakland Seals games in the late 1960s, knew plenty about hockey and its people.
So he asked for suggestions about whom to hire as general manager of the new team.
First, Boe wondered if he should pursue Sam Pollock, the longtime Canadiens general manager. Someone had told Boe that Pollock might be a good candidate and might be available.
“I laughed in his face,” Ryan recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t think that’s likely, Mr. Boe. You’re not going to get Sam Pollock out of Montreal. There’d be a riot in the city.’ It was laughable. I said, ‘I think you better move on to other choices.’”
Ryan had worked with Bill Torrey when Torrey was in the Seals' front office. The Islanders' future general manager eventually left after clashing with new owner Charles Finley.
“As we kicked around some names he had been given, because he had been asking a lot of people, I suggested Bill Torrey, who I knew was looking for another NHL job after the collapse of the California Golden Seals,” Ryan said. (The team changed its name from “Oakland” to “California Golden” Seals in 1970.)
“He was with the Seals about a year after I bailed . . . He had impressed me with his hockey knowledge, his business sense and his likable personality. I was able to put Boe and Torrey together.”
Ryan said, “I don’t take credit for the actual hiring and I’m sure that Boe did talk to some other prospects.” But Ryan did play a pivotal matchmaking role in a hire that served the Islanders spectacularly well.
After they won their first Cup in 1980 — with Ryan calling the second period of the clinching game for CBS — Torrey insisted on giving him an engraved ring, then another in ‘81.
Ryan has them mounted in a small box so visitors who are curious can see them. But he said, “I don’t believe that team announcers should receive championship rings, in any sport. After all, we don’t contribute to the victories in any way. We just describe to fans what happens on the ice.”
True in most cases, but perhaps not this one.