All young players need mentors. That’s what the late Billy MacMillan was to the pre-dynastic Islanders in the mid-1970s.
“You’ve got the guys with talent, but they’ve got to learn from the older gentlemen,” former Islanders goalie Chico Resch told Newsday on Monday about the passing of his longtime friend on Saturday at age 80.
“And that’s what Billy served for us. Pretty unflappable. Good up-and-down winger. Was both tough enough and skilled enough to play on a third line. That’s what he did for the Islanders.”
MacMillan, from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, played 446 games for the Maple Leafs, Flames and Islanders.
He was an assistant coach to Al Arbour in 1980 when the Islanders won the first of four straight Stanley Cups and was the Devils’ first coach when the franchise moved to New Jersey from Colorado in 1982.
“Al really liked him because he had a lot of Al Arbour qualities,” Resch said. “He was calm and had a good sense of humor.”
MacMillan played 231 games for the Islanders from 1973-77 with 32 goals and 36 assists.
“The New York Islanders are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former player and assistant coach from the 1980 Cup team, Bill MacMillan,” the Islanders said in a statement. “We extend our thoughts and prayers to the entire MacMillan family and friends.”
MacMillan left the Islanders to become the Colorado Rockies’ head coach in 1980-81 before being promoted to general manager. But he was back behind the bench as the GM/coach in 1982-83 when the franchise became the New Jersey Devils.
The Islanders traded Resch to the Rockies at the deadline in 1981, but the goalie became a free agent before the 1982-83 season.
“I was just starting to do negotiations with the Rangers,” Resch said. “Billy said to me, ‘Chico, c’mon, we’re good friends, right? I’ve got this new job, new owner. If I can’t sign you, a friend, I’m going to be in trouble.’ I said, ‘OK, Billy.’ ”