The 1972-73 Islanders aren’t so much famous as they are infamous. Sports Illustrated referred to them as “one of the sorriest NHL teams ever.” Their record was a miserable, NHL record-setting 12-60-6. All they had was an underskilled team that luckily retained a sense of humor about the season.
Here are fifteen firsts, facts and funny moments from the Isles’ first season:
1. The team’s first amateur draft pick, Billy Harris, signed for $125,000.
2. The first regular season home game was October 7, 1972 against the Atlanta Flames.
3. Ed Westfall scored the first Islanders’ regular season goal.
4. Billy Harris scored the first ever Isles goal, in an exhibition game in Drummondville, QC.
5. He also muffed the team’s first penalty shot, which came during their second regular season game.
6. Gordie Howe was originally offered the coaching job.
7. The team’s first win was October 12, 1972. They beat the LA Kings 3-2.
8. The New York Times protested the lack of a suitable pressbox and threatened to not cover Isles games. The team’s solution was four folding bridge chairs over a main entrance to the seating for the four primary area papers. All other media still had to sit in the furthest reaches of the balcony.
9. Eight of the team’s nineteen Expansion Draft selections jumped to the WHA instead of playing for the Isles.
10. Three of the Isles’ 1972 amateur draft went on to win Cups with the team in the 1980s: Lorne Henning, Bob Nystrom, and Gerry Howatt.
11. The team invited 90 players to camp and cut two the night before camp started. One was cut for having a mohawk and behaving badly in the bar. The other was cut for refusing to send his wife home.
12. Team trainer Nick Garen made players do strength and flexibility routines on the field of a harness racing track during camp. A driver complained that the players spooked the horses, to which Garen replied, “It’s possible. Dogs do spook horses sometimes.”
13. Billy Smith broke the NHL goalie record for penalty minutes with 42.
14. On January 18, 1973, they beat the Bruins 9-7. Most news outlets assumed it was a typo.
15. The team saved all of the money it had fined its players throughout the season. They then used that money for the season end party. The party lasted as long as the money did – about a week, and roughly 700 cases of beer.
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