“Former NHL player Billy MacMillan will be remembered as a humble, well-respected friend”

Billy MacMillan, centre, is surrounded by his friends Jamie MacLeod, Fred MacDonald, Steve Gallant, George Halliwell and Ray Murphy. The group would meet every Friday at The Alley in Charlottetown. (Jamie MacLeod)

P.E.I.’s Billy MacMillan played alongside some of the greatest hockey players in the world during his 446 games in the NHL, but you’d have to pry the stories out of him.

In the world of professional sports, certain individuals leave an indelible mark not only for their athletic prowess but also for their character and the impact they have on others. One such individual was Billy MacMillan, a former NHL player who was known not only for his impressive skills on the ice but also for his humility and genuine nature as a friend. Throughout his career and beyond, Billy MacMillan left a lasting impression on those who had the privilege of knowing him, and his memory continues to be celebrated as that of a humble, well-respected friend.

Born and raised in a small town, Billy MacMillan’s love for hockey blossomed at a young age. He displayed exceptional talent and dedication, which caught the attention of scouts and ultimately led him to be drafted into the NHL. However, despite his success and fame, Billy MacMillan remained grounded and never lost sight of the values instilled in him by his family and community.

On the ice, Billy MacMillan’s skills were unparalleled. His ability to read the game, make precise passes, and score pivotal goals made him a formidable force on the team. But what truly set him apart was his sportsmanship and respect for the game. He never sought the spotlight or personal glory; instead, he focused on contributing to the success of his team and uplifting those around him. His teammates and opponents alike admired his humility and approachable nature, making him a beloved figure in the hockey community.

Beyond the realm of sports, Billy MacMillan’s genuine character shone brightly. He was known for his kindness, compassion, and unwavering support for his friends. Whether it was offering a lending ear during tough times or providing guidance and mentorship to aspiring players, Billy MacMillan exemplified what it meant to be a true friend. He went above and beyond to make others feel valued and supported, leaving a lasting impact on the lives he touched.

As the years went by, Billy MacMillan’s contributions to the sport extended beyond his playing career. He dedicated himself to coaching and mentoring young athletes, sharing his knowledge and experiences to help them navigate the challenges of professional hockey and life beyond the rink. His guidance and unwavering support became the cornerstone of many successful careers, earning him the respect and admiration of both players and coaches.

Even after retiring from professional hockey, Billy MacMillan continued to be an influential figure in the community. He used his platform to raise awareness and support charitable causes, always seeking to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Whether it was organizing fundraisers, visiting children’s hospitals, or advocating for social causes, Billy MacMillan’s impact extended far beyond the boundaries of the sport he loved.

The news of Billy MacMillan’s passing on July 15, 2023, left the hockey community and his friends devastated. Tributes poured in from fans, fellow players, and coaches, all of whom acknowledged his incredible legacy as a humble and well-respected friend. The outpouring of love and admiration served as a testament to the profound impact he had on so many lives.

In reflecting on Billy MacMillan’s life, it is evident that his athletic achievements are only a fraction of the legacy he leaves behind. It is his genuine character, humility, and unwavering support as a friend that truly define him. Billy MacMillan will forever be remembered as an extraordinary individual who embodied the true spirit of sportsmanship, camaraderie, and friendship.

He won the Stanley Cup as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders in 1980, but he’d never brag about it.

When he worked at the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission after his retirement, he was so well respected they named an employee award after him, but he never wanted to take the credit.

MacMillan, who is being remembered as a humble man who was deeply respected by those who knew him, died overnight Friday at the age of 80. 

“Strong, strong character man,” said Jamie MacLeod, who grew up idolizing MacMillan as a hockey player and later became colleagues with him at the liquor commission. He was one a group of friends that would meet Fridays at The Alley in Charlottetown.

“Strong, strong character man,” said Jamie MacLeod, who grew up idolizing MacMillan as a hockey player and later became colleagues with him at the liquor commission. He was one a group of friends that would meet Fridays at The Alley in Charlottetown.

So it was a thrill for MacLeod, who was 11 years younger, to become friends with MacMillan when they began working together at the liquor commission in 2005.

“The number of employees that work for Billy, that because of his mentorship, that were eventually elevated to more senior positions, including store managers themselves, I think it’s a tribute to the man.”

Other tributes having been pouring in on social media from players and coaches who knew MacMillan as a player with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders — as well as Canada’s national team — and as a coach with the Islanders, Colorado Rockies and New Jersey Devils.

But to MacLeod and his buddies at The Alley, he was simply a good friend.

“We would meet on Fridays for a couple hours, solve the problems of the world, pump Billy for stories because he was so humble you had to pump stuff,” MacLeod said.

“And through that friendship, it just developed and we became a very tight, tight, tight group.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized.

Billy MacMillan’s journey as a former NHLer reminds us all of the power of humility, respect, and genuine friendship. His legacy serves as an inspiration to athletes and individuals alike, encouraging us to strive for excellence not only in our chosen pursuits but also in our interactions with others. As we remember Billy MacMillan, let us celebrate his remarkable life and carry forward his values of humility, kindness, and being a true friend in our own lives.

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