Billy MacMillan, the first head coach in New Jersey Devils history and a former NHL forward, has died at age 80, the New York Islanders announced on Saturday.
After winning the Stanley Cup with the Islanders as an assistant coach in 1980, MacMillan was hired as head coach of the Colorado Rockies, going 22-45 with 13 ties in 1980-81. After the season, he was promoted to general manager, with Bert Marshall replacing him behind the bench.
MacMillan, however, took over the coaching role when the franchise moved to New Jersey before the 1982-83 season. This season, the Devils (17-49 with 14 ties) finished fifth in the Patrick Division, and after starting the 1983-84 season with a 2-18 record, MacMillan was fired as coach and GM.
A member of the Canadian national team that won the bronze medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Grenoble, MacMillan was not drafted, and he did not reach the NHL until the age of 27. In his rookie season with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1970-71, he had his best season in the NHL, amassing 22 goals and 41 points in 76 games.
After two seasons with Toronto, MacMillan was selected by the Atlanta Flames in the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft. He had 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 78 games for Atlanta in 1972-73 before being traded to the Islanders, with whom he had 68 points (32 goals, 36 assists) in 231 games over four seasons between 1973-77.
MacMillan then became a player/coach for the Fort Worth Texans, the Islanders’ top farm team, winning a Central Hockey League title in 1978, when he was named the league’s coach of the year.
MacMillan joined coaching staff Al Arbor with the Islanders prior to the 1979-80 season, helping New York to the first of four straight Stanley Cup triumphs.