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Hall of Famer Billy Smith on New York Islanders, Al Arbour, Nassau Coliseum Past, Present

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Billy Smith talks about the old days, the current days, and the days to come.

Old buddies.
Old buddies.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Billy Smith is in town for tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as the New York Islanders honor franchise legends on different nights during their final season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

He had a media availability this morning, producing a several classic quotes from the charismatic and feisty goalie.

On the Coliseum

"It’s a great rink. It’s still a great rink." Smith noted that unfortunately the technology and luxury suite amenities demanded by modern sports (to say nothing of the bathroom lines) make it obsolete.

On the Ingredients of the NHL's Last Dynasty

We had a good group of guys. What a lot of people don't understand -- we kind of call it family, but what you gotta understand: We had 16 guys that played seven, eight years together. That's a long time to have the same teammates, to look across and it's the same guy. So you do get to know each other well.

On Fiery Defense of His Teammates in Edmonton

We had a lot of guys from out west, from around Edmonton, and they got treated...they didn't get treated the way they should. I'll never understand that.

On Al Arbour

He knew how to treat people. He didn’t treat everybody the same, he knew everybody had a different personality. Al was good that way. He taught us a system and he didn’t change his system from the beginning year until he retired. [...] Whenever we got in trouble or in an overtime game, his favorite statement was ‘I don’t care if the roof falls in, we don’t change our system.’


Al was great to me in the playoffs because he wouldn’t talk to me. But then in training camp, he’d beat the crap out of me.

His Old Teammates

We don't see each other too much. Butchie -- we've been friends since we won the Calder Cup together in 1970, so I hear from him a lot. But anytime any of us run into each other, it's like yesterday.

On Today's Game

Guys are bigger, faster. It's a faster game. You take away center ice [red line], a much faster game. Different systems. In our day it was up and down the wings, don't go circling. Now it's all circling, don't stop, lots of circling...maybe that's why hits today are more crushing. Guys going faster, through center ice.

It's faster, more open. Goalies are bigger too. It's a different style of goaltending -- some of the way I played still works, but a lot of it wouldn't work today.


Today the West is stronger than the East. In our day, until Edmonton came in, the East was much stronger than the West. Edmonton forced the West to get better.


I don't watch that much hockey anymore. I'm a golfer.

On Today's Islanders Team

I think it's great. They've got life, they've got speed. The team is playing well this year. The big thing is when they go into a slump, they're gonna need their stars to pull them out, just like we had with Potvin, Bossy, Trots.

Can the Dynasty Be Repeated?

Don't ever say never {laughs}. No, you gotta understand, what are the chances of keeping a group of 16 guys together for that long today? Now it's a money game; all us old guys wish we were playing today, are you kidding me?

More quotes in print at the official site, and you can listen to the full 15-minute audio here [mp3].