Starting a brand new franchise can be a daunting task, from choosing a 23-man roster, to finding a coach, to picking the team’s first captain. Islanders architect Bill Torrey – the first employee of the New York Islanders and team’s General Manager for more than two decades – learned as he went, starting with the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft where he selected Ed Westfall at ninth overall.
“Eddie was far and away the most dominant player taken in that draft,” Torrey said by phone on Friday. “He was coming to us the year after winning the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins. He was a key player so it was a major acquisition for a first year team.”
According to Torrey, Westfall had all the qualities a start-up team needed when considering a player for the franchise’s first captain.
“If you looked at the roster, his credentials to be captain were far and away the best,” Torrey said. “He fit the role just naturally. Eddie’s personality is outgoing, very positive, upbeat, he was that way as a player. So he had a very, very good influence on the team in that regard.”
Even though he didn’t put up record numbers in an individual season, Westfall played 493 games in his nine years with the franchise, scoring 105 goals and 181 assists for 286 points, standing today as the Islanders 20th All-Time points leader. More than that, he was a great all-around player.
“He was a very good penalty killer, good on face-offs, could play right wing left wing, he was very adaptable and obviously coming from a Stanley Cup Championship team, he had a great influence on the younger players that came to us that year.”
Torrey said that Westfall’s personality and determination to succeed made the Islanders Captain a great partner for Head Coach Al Arbour.
“He was very adaptable,” Torrey said. “He was open, he was very much aware that our team was an expansion team and it was going to be made up of players from all different teams so there would need to be time to assimilate the different personalities and Eddie was a great mixer. He included all the players in all their events, the things they did. He was a natural leader.”
As far as the way (Westfall) inspired the other players, he inspired them simply because every night when he put that uniform on, he gave it 100 percent, his very best. And that’s the best role, that’s the best influence a captain can have. - Bill Torrey
Now as the Islanders continue to celebrate their 40th anniversary season, time has come for the franchise to honor the team’s leader, who helped mold and guide the young players into the players they would become.
“He was our first captain, the leader of our team for the last five or six years he played,” Torrey said. “He was used by the coaches in many different roles and it never bothered him. He played hard every night and he enjoyed playing. It was a natural fit for him in that regard. As far as the way he inspired the other players, he inspired them simply because every night when he put that uniform on, he gave it 100 percent, his very best. And that’s the best role, that’s the best influence a captain can have.”