Ed Westfall was an original member of the New York Islanders and the team's first captain. A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Boston Bruins, '18' scored the first goal in franchise history and was tasked with teaching Bill Torrey's talented young roster how to win and how to be professionals.
In the New York Post, columnist Larry Brooks makes a case for why the 81-year-old Westfall should join dynasty-era Islanders in the rafters at UBS Arena during the team's 50th anniversary.
"The anniversary also creates the opportunity for the Islanders to celebrate Ed Westfall, now 81, by retiring their first captain’s No. 18 and raising the jersey to the top of UBS Arena — where it would rightfully join Denis Potvin’s No. 5, Clark Gillies’ No. 9, Bryan Trottier’s No. 19, Mike Bossy’s No. 22, Bob Nystrom’s No. 23, John Tonelli’s No. 27, Billy Smith’s No. 31 and Butch Goring’s No. 91. "- Larry Brooks, New York Post
Should the NY Islanders retire Ed Westfall's number?
With the exception of "Mr. Islander" Bob Nystrom who, like Westfall, played on the inaugural 1972-73 team and scored the most famous goal in franchise history, all retired numbers had belonged to Hall of Famers that won all four Stanley Cups. That changed in February 2020 when the organization decided to retire the No. 27 of John Tonelli and Butch Goring's No. 91.
When that happened, it showed that ownership had an appetite to expand the list of players that receive the highest honor a franchise can bestow on a player - to retire their jersey number. If Tonelli and Goring meet the standard then what about Bob Bourne? Could there a case be made for Ken Morrow? What about one of the most prolific post-dynasty era players in history, Pat LaFontaine? Where is the new line drawn?
Those reading might disagree, but I have always had a very high bar for retiring jersey numbers. For me, there's something a tad off when a number has been passed around for decades before it is hung up in the rafters. It just takes something away from it.
A year after Westfall retired in 1979, No. 18 was handed out to Alex McKendry who played just two games in the 1979-80 season. From there, no player wore the number again until 1992. If there was a time to retire his number, it was probably during that window when Westfall was still very much part of the fabric of the organization as SportsChannel's color TV analyst working alongside Jiggs McDonald. After Rob DiMaio wore it in 1992, notable No. 18's have included Marty McInnis, Mike Sillinger, Ryan Strome, and of course Anthony Beauvillier. Side Note: It is cool that the first and last goal at the Nassau Coliseum was scored by a player wearing No. 18.
Along with Jiggs, Eddie taught my generation the game of hockey. I have a soft spot for him and get an absolute kick still seeing him at events and hearing his distinctive voice. But the team should not retire his number.
The organization has already honored Westfall by inducting him into the team's Hall of Fame on November 19, 2011. On 'Ed Westfall' night, he was celebrated during a pre-game ceremony and then went back in the booth with Jiggs to call the second period between his two former teams, the Islanders and Bruins.
Islanders Hall of Fame honors had long been overlooked and under-appreciated. That changed with UBS Arena prominently and beautifully displaying the team's Hall of Fame plaques in the main corridor. There's now a place for younger Islanders fans to go and learn about the Islanders' first captain and colorful color-man during the dynasty era.
A new banner isn't required to rightfully acknowledge the impact '18' made on the franchise. We know and should make sure future generations of fans do too.