Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
The New York Islanders began play in the National Hockey League (NHL) in the 1972-73 season. Their name was derived from the team’s geographical location of Long Island, New York. The first game in franchise history was 7 October 1972 as they lost to the Atlanta Flames 3-2. Ed Westfall scored the team’s first goal.
The most significant happening of the first season was that the team finished in last place, giving them the right to the first pick in the amateur draft. With this dubious honour they chose Denis Potvin, a future superstar and the defenseman toted as the next Bobby Orr. The Islanders also hired Al Arbour as head coach the summer following their first year, a move that would prove very smart as the team established itself in the league.
Led by such stars as Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Glenn “Chico” Resch, Billy Smith, Clark Gillies and Bob Nystrom the Islanders would establish themselves as a true dynasty winning four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980 – 1984.
The 1987 playoffs saw one of hockey’s most famous playoff games ever in what is sometimes referred to as the “Easter Epic.” Playing the Washington Capitals, the game continued into the fourth overtime period until Pat LaFontaine ended it with a goal after 68 minutes and 47 seconds of overtime hockey was played. This was, at the time, the longest game since 1943.
The team has retired the following numbers: 5 – Denis Potvin; 9 – Clark Gillies; 19 – Bryan Trottier; 22 – Mike Bossy; 23 – Bob Nystrom; and 31 – Billy Smith.
Other notable players to suit up for the Islanders include: Pat LaFontaine; Ed Westfall; Patrick Flatley; Brent Sutter; Alexei Yashin; Bob Bourne; Bill Harris; John Tonelli; Bryan Berard; Pierre Turgeon; Michael Peca; and Glenn Resch.
The team has one a long list of awards: 4 Stanley Cups – 1979-80 to 1982-83; Bill Masterton Trophy – Ed Westfall 1976-77 and Mark Fitzpatrick 1991-92; Calder Trophy – Denis Potvin 1973-74, Bryan Trottier 1975-76, Mike Bossy 1977-78 and Bryan Berard 1996-97; Conn Smythe Trophy – Bryan Trottier 1979-80, Butch Goring 1980-81, Mike Bossy 1981-82 and Billy Smith 1982-83; Frank J. Selke Trophy – Michael Peca 2001-02; Hart Trophy – Bryan Trottier 1978-79; Jack Adams Award – Al Arbour 1978-79; James Norris Trophy – Denis Potvin 1975-76, 1977-78 and 1978-79; King Clancy Trophy – Bryan Trottier 1988-89; Lady Byng Trophy – Mike Bossy 1982-83, 1983-84 and 1985-86 and Pierre Turgeon 1992-93; Vezina Trophy – Billy Smith 1981-82; and the William Jennings Trophy – Billy Smith and Roland Melanson 1982-83.
The New York Islanders franchise has not been able to float as a true contender since its days as a dynasty, but some strong, young players with lots of heart
and veterans providing leader-ship should bring some respectability to a team with a storied history.