The first Islanders’ captain recalls the 1972-73 expansion season, when the newborn team struggled to a 12-60-6 record with a goal differential of minus-177 under coach Phil Goyette, who lasted 48 games, and his successor, Earl Ingarfield
It’s understandable this franchise’s start gets overlooked sometimes. It’s like when you have a baby. You don’t get a manual, you just have to play everything by ear.
We didn’t have a dressing room for our first practices. Billy Harris and I were renting a house in Huntington. We had to drive to Nassau Coliseum to put our uniforms on, except for our skates, get on a bus and go out to Smithtown and practice at Superior Ice Rink.
We practiced there. Then we bussed back to the Coliseum, showered and went home. I said, “This is a road trip. I’m going to pack my lunch.”
There were some giggles in there but you’re still trying to be a proud hockey team. But it often reminded me of Slap Shot.
I had won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 1970 and again in 1972 before the Islanders took me in the expansion draft. I found out that I wasn’t a Bruin anymore from a customs agent at Logan Airport in Boston. I had taken my parents for a trip through England, Scotland and Ireland. I’m standing in customs to clear and I can see my kids through the window waiting for me and they all looked so sad. The agent said to me, “Ed, we’ll never forget what they did to you.”
Islanders owner Roy Boe called me. I told him I didn’t even know where Long Island is. I’d never heard of it. Little did I know I’d still be living here 50 years later.
Harris was the first pick in the draft so we knew we had a quality player. But he was young and inexperienced. We didn’t have many players with NHL experience.
Poor Phil Goyette. I love the guy. He wasn’t an experienced coach, either. You had to feel a little bit for him, too. The new WHA [World Hockey Association] played a factor, also. There were 11 or 12 players the Islanders could have drafted that wound up going to the new league.
It was GM Bill Torrey’s call to fire Goyette. It made him look like he was a bad coach. Who knows if he was a bad coach? Look what he had for players. I didn’t think that was the right move. Let him finish out the season.
The hardest part was getting through that season. A lot of the young players were coming from AHL teams and were pretty good at that level and not used to losing.