The expansion NHL team in Miami will be known as the Florida Panthers _ the name once reserved for a Tampa Bay expansion baseball franchise _ and Bill Torrey, architect of the New York Islanders' championship dynasty, will be the Panthers' president.
Owner H. Wayne Huizenga made the announcements Monday. Huizenga bought the rights to the name for about $5,000 from Tampa Bay businessman Frank Morsani shortly after Huizenga was granted one of the National League's expansion baseball teams in June 1991. Huizenga named his baseball team the Marlins.
"I had taken out the rights all around the world for the name "Florida Panthers,' " Morsani said. "I filed for it in Washington (D.C.) and in the state (of Florida), all around the United States and Europe and South America, even in Japan. Once we figured we weren't going to be able to use it around here, I decided to let someone else have it."
Huizenga said he decided to use Florida instead of South Florida in the team name when the state animal, the panther, was selected in a name-the-team contest. The NHL approved the name.
Torrey, 58, was the first person hired by the Islanders when they joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1972. They missed the playoffs their first two years, then began a steady rise that included 14 consecutive winning seasons (1975-88) and four consecutive Stanley Cup championships (1980-83).
Torrey spent 21 years with the Islanders, the first 20 as general manager, adding the roles of president (1980-89) and chairman (1989-92). He retired before this season but remained as a consultant to the Islanders.
"Frankly, after all the years of having the authority of running a franchise, my hand was cut down in the advisory role and I missed the day-to-day action of being involved," Torrey said.
The Panthers and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim begin play this fall. Under the NHL's realignment, the Panthers will be in the Atlantic Division along with Tampa Bay, New Jersey, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, Philadelphia and Washington.
_ Staff writer Bruce Lowitt contributed to this report.