A player on several provincial, regional and national championship hockey teams – owner of the coveted Olympic scroll and Stanley Cup ring – few Islanders have achieved the levels of sport success that Billy MacMillan has attained, and fewer still have remained so untouched by their athletic success.
Born March 7, 1943 in Charlottetown, William Stewart “Billy” MacMillan would play his first hockey on the backyard ice-rink meticulously prepared by his father at the family home on Alexander Drive. The centre of skating and hockey for the entire neighbourhood, this rink provided many hours of skating, stick-handling and scrimmaging for young Bill and his friends. There is little doubt that the encouragement and support that Billy received from his father and mother at such an early age helped to launch him on his highly successful hockey career. Equally significant would be the relentless dedication to excellence that Billy MacMillan set for himself.
From the moment that Billy first stepped onto the Charlottetown Forum ice, the wise rinkside observers predicted great things for him. His hockey talent was apparent, even at a young age, with his Paperweight, Pee Wee, and Bantam teams capturing Island crowns. He came under the watchful eye of Jack “Spy” Ready upon his entry into Queen Charlotte Junior High, where he proceeded to captain the school rugby team to the provincial title, win the interscholastic title in the 100 yard dash, as well as star with the school’s hockey squad, which won the city championships.
1958-59 saw Billy play with the Maritime champion Abbies Midget hockey team, coached by Orin Carver, until the young Charlottetown sensation was recruited by Father David Bauer. Accepting an offer to play at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Billy was quickly be promoted to the St. Mike’s major squad, serving as team captain following Dave Keon’s departure for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Following his highly successful Junior “A” career with St. Mike’s, Billy returned to Charlottetown to pursue his academic studies. He led the Saint Dunstan’s Saints, coached by Jack Kane Jr., to the conference title, while winning the scoring crown and the MVP title.
Billy MacMillan was among Father Bauer’s first recruits for the first Canadian National hockey team, and he committed himself to the concept for five years, 1964 through 1969. Some highlights of Billy MacMillan’s participation with the National Team include his presence in four World Hockey Championships against masterful teams from Russia, Czechoslovakia and Sweden; scoring the winning goal against the Russian team at the 1967 Centennial World Invitational Tournament, a forerunner of today’s Canada Cup; and winning the bronze medal at the 1968 Grenoble Olympic Winter Games.
At age 27, Billy MacMillan was signed to the Toronto Maple Leafs and succeeded in scoring 22 goals in his rookie season. In so doing, Billy would become the first Islander to shoot 20 or more goals in a season, skating at right wing with Keon at centre and Monaghan at left wing. He was traded to the Atlanta Flames in 1972, and then to the New York Islanders in 1973. He played four seasons with the Islanders before moving briefly to the Rhode Island Reds of the AHL, and then to the Ft. Worth Texans of the CHL. Billy spent his final playing year with the 1977-78 Texans, in the role of a player-coach, which earned him coach of the year honours.
A leader by example, Billy, both as player and coach, was known for keeping his cool, and for the respect which he displayed toward other teammates. This unique characteristic resulted in his appointment to the assistant coaching slot on Al Arbour’s 1979-80 New York Islanders, a team that won the Stanley Cup in that season. Accepting a coaching job with the fledgling Colorado Rockies the following season, he would also take over the team’s GM position in 1981-82. After the transfer of the Colorado franchise to New Jersey, and a change in team name to the Devils, Billy MacMillan concentrated on developing the pro team’s minor league prospects. This move continued to benefit the team following Billy’s departure from the Devils’ organization in the fall of 1983.
In addition to being a national and international hockey star, Billy MacMillan has accomplished a great deal in the Island community. He was named Islander of the Year in 1970, not only for his athletic achievements but in recognition of his tireless contributions to the Gencheff Camp for physically handicapped children at Tea Hill. Billy’s unique combination of academic and athletic excellence would saw him appointed as a P.E.I. Ambassador of Youth in 1985, the International Year of the Youth.
Currently, Billy resides in Meadowbank, P.E.I. with his wife Marj. He is employed as a manager with the P.E.I. Liquor Commission, and in his spare time, enjoys woodworking and golf.
A true ambassador of sport, 1985 inductee William Stewart “Billy” MacMillan is a most admirable member of the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame.
Link to CBC story http://tinyurl.com/7no8y67