To a younger generation of hockey fans, Ed Westfall is likely better known for his hockey broadcasting history, mainly with the New York Islanders. But for those who remember hockey in the 1960s and 1970s, Ed Westfall was a successful NHL forward, playing 18 years in the big league.
Westfall's professional career began in 1961 when he suited up for 63 games with the Boston Bruins. He was known as a defensive specialist and the Bruins were not disappointed with what they had. Westfall scored just twice while assisting on nine others in his first year. Westfall's first notable offensive season came in 1964-65, when he managed 12 goals and 15 assists in 65 games. His mandate was to keep the opposition away from Bruins' goaltenders Eddie Johnston and Gerry Cheevers, and he performed that function admirably.
The 1969-70 season was a breakthrough year for the Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup on Bobby Orr's championship-winning goal in overtime of game 4 against the St. Louis Blues. Westfall played in all 14 playoff games, scoring three goals and adding five assists.
The following year the Bruins were an offensive powerhouse, and even defensive specialists like Westfall benefited from playing with the likes of Orr, Esposito, Hodge, and Bucyk. Westfall netted a career-high 25 goals and 34 assists for 59 points. The Bruins seemed like a lock to take their second consecutive Cup. However, a rookie goaltender out of Cornell University had other ideas. A 23-year-old named Ken Dryden, a 6'4" 215-pounder from Hamilton, turned in one of the greatest goaltending performances in NHL playoff history, shutting down the Big Bad Bruins in the semi-finals. From there Montreal went on to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Cup.
As hard as that playoff loss was for the Bruins, they came back tougher than ever the following year, eager to prove that they were still the best team in the NHL. Once again they dominated the regular season and went on to win their second Stanley Cup in three years, knocking off the New York Rangers in six games. In 15 playoff games, Westfall collected four goals and three assists.
The last seven years of Eddie's NHL career were spent on Long Island with the Islanders. The club wanted his experience to help the younger kids learn the ropes. And, with all expansion teams, there were growing pains. The club failed to make the playoffs during Westfall's first two years there. However, with young stars like Denis Potvin and Clark Gillies, there was a solid foundation for the future and 1974-75 saw the club advance to the post-season for the first time in its short history.
Westfall retired from the NHL after the 1978-79 season at the age of 38. His in-depth knowledge of the game, combined with a friendly, outgoing demeanour, made him a perfect fit to become a television hockey commentator, which he has done for over 20 years.