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Former Islanders GM Torrey ponders club's future

Islanders general manager Bill Torrey wears a big

Islanders general manager Bill Torrey wears a big grin with his cigar in the team locker room after his team won the right to play the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup by beating the Buffalo Sabres 5-2. (May 10, 1980) Credit: Newsday File Photo

A few key figures for the Islanders still are doing basically the same jobs they were doing when the team first won the Stanley Cup 30 years ago Monday. Joanne Holewa, manager of hockey administration, and Ralph Sellitti, vice president of ticket operations, still are at their posts. And so is Nassau Coliseum.

The latter is the problem for the current team. The home of the Islanders then and now is considered too small and outdated to generate much revenue or attract top free agents. The Coliseum is at the heart of the proposed Lighthouse development and is at the center of all the questions about whether the Islanders will remain on Long Island.

If events had evolved differently 20 years ago, those questions would have been moot by now. Bill Torrey said this past week that in the early 1990s, when he still was the general manager, the franchise had worked up two proposals. One was for a refurbished Coliseum, the other was for a new building.

"Somewhere in the bowels of the Coliseum, there are two sets of plans," he said on the phone from his home in Florida. "We even had little scale models of both."

The new Coliseum would have been built between the current arena and the Long Island Marriott. "The old building would have been turned into a convention center, something Long Island could use," he said.

The other proposal was to renovate the current building, which present owner Charles Wang would like to do as part of his Lighthouse project.

So what happened to those ideas from years ago? "Well, the team changed hands," Torrey said, referring to a series of real estate-minded new owners, beginning with a management team that took over in 1992.

"I'm still hopeful that somehow the team doesn't have to leave the area. To me, that's where it belongs," said the original general manager, who is an adviser to the Florida Panthers. "There's still a lot of time left on their deal with the county. Whether the whole Lighthouse project works or not, I don't know."

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