Artie Torrey called it “the memory of a lifetime for us.”
He meant the ceremonial first puck he and his three brothers dropped at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night, when the Islanders honored his late father, Bill, “The Architect” of their early 1980s dynasty.
But really, the memory of a lifetime was a lifetime ago, when the franchise that Torrey built pretty much from scratch won four Stanley Cups, all while based at the Coliseum.
And this was one last time to pay tribute to Torrey, who died at 83 last May, three years after his coach, Al Arbour, died at 82.
“For us, this is the punctuation; this is the end,” another of Torrey’s sons, Pete, said as the family watched the early stages of a loss to the Flyers from a suite. “There’s no more banners.”
He did not mean the Islanders will not win another championship, perhaps even before they leave for a new arena near Belmont Park. He meant that there will be no more banners, or public memorials, for their father.
Three of the brothers, Will, Rich and Artie, still live on Long Island. They would love to see new banners.
“It’s closing one chapter for us, certainly, with our dad now being passed away,” Artie said, “but there’s a new chapter that begins. We’re so excited for the team, and hopefully with Belmont, that will become a new home that will be as successful as the old one.”
It helps that the guy currently in charge happens to be the only one who can challenge Torrey for status as the most successful hockey executive in New York-area history.
“If there is anyone that I know that sees building teams and what it takes to win in this league [like Torrey], it is Lou [Lamoriello],” Artie said. “Lou and my dad were kindred spirits in that regard. It’s so fitting Lou would be here. I can tell how seriously he believes in bringing things back to the [old] competitiveness. Barry Trotz, too.”
The Torrey brothers also thanked co-owner Jon Ledecky for his ongoing commitment to the alumni.
Many of them attended a dinner in Torrey’s memory on Friday night, swapping stories from the old days. Many were back again Saturday, watching from a suite, and were introduced on the video board during a break.
The highlight for the brothers was the pregame ceremony, for which they wore Islanders sweaters with the numbers 80, 81, 82 and 83 on the back to recognize the four Stanley Cups won under Torrey.
Many others in the building wore bow ties in honor of Torrey’s signature look, including Trotz and his staff.
Best of all, Torrey received a warm ovation from the fans, many of them not old enough to remember the last of the Islanders’ Cups.
“Echoes of days gone by,” Artie said. “It was the memory of a lifetime to see everyone and to hear this building the way we know it can sound.”
Rich Torrey pointed out where their father used to sit, although the exact location was lost in the recent renovation, and said he wished everyone could “click our heels” and find a way to return to the Coliseum on a permanent basis.
That is not happening, which adds to the poignancy of remembrances such as Saturday night’s.
Honoring the greats is great, but what really matters now is coming up with something new so that come the early 2030s, there will be more to celebrate in the new arena than 50th anniversaries from the old one.
“It’s just so nice to be back here where he made it all happen,” Will said. “We’re saying goodbye in one respect. But you can’t forget about a team that won 19 consecutive playoff series and four Stanley Cups. I’m just so proud of my father. We’re very lucky.”