For the first time in its history, the National Hockey League was in direct successful competition in the form of the creation of the World Hockey Association. In the fall of 1972, the WHA began formulating plans to fill a team on Long Island. The New York Raiders were going to be the league’s star and flagship team.
The same year, the brand new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was erected. The WHA wanted the Raiders to use NVMC as their home arena. Nassau County however, wouldn’t have any of that. They did not consider the World Hockey Association a professional league and denied their application to use the facilities.
At the same time, and not to lose any ground, the County hired William Shea of New York Mets fame to lobby the NHL to place a team on a Long Island. Although the New York Rangers were adamant in not wanting direct competition, the National Hockey League agreed with Shea and the New York Islanders were born. Nassau Coliseum would be home base. The Rangers however got a payday out of it as the Islanders were forced to pay a $4 million territorial fee.
The 1972 Expansion Draft saw the Islanders pick up goaltender Billy Smith from the Los Angeles Kings, Ed Westfall from the Boston Bruins, and Terry Crisp from the St. Louis Blues among others. In the same year’s Amateur Draft, the Isles picked up Billy Harris and Bob Nystrom. This young and inexperienced team posted the worst record in NHL history with 12-60-6.
By 1975, that would all change.
Check out this video narrated by the Islanders first captain in history, Ed Westfall, as he talks about some of the milestones in the 1972/73 season.