Yesterday, in an interview with Sabres Hockey Hotline on WGR, newly hired Buffalo Sabres Assistant Coach and Islanders Legend Bryan Trottier told the program his former head coach, Al Arbour, is suffering from dementia. When asked about his former head coach, Trottier said: “…He’s (Arbour’s) going through a little tough time right now but we all love Al for all the great times we’ve had together and his leadership. He was always calm under pressure…”
Whenever you think about the dynasty team, you should always think of Al Arbour. Most coaches usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to getting credit for their team’s success, but Arbour should never be left out.
Following a very successful playing career as a defenseman, Al Arbour moved on to what he is better known for today:coaching. After coaching the Blues for two seasons, Arbour was the Islanders head coach from the teams inception as an expansion team in the year 1972.Between the leadership skills of Arbour and the hockey brains of GM Bill Torrey, the Islanders were in great hands. Arbour brought the team to relevancy quite quickly and would go on to win four Stanley Cups. Arbour coached until 1986 where he retired to a front office job. (for the time being)
But Arbour wasn’t done yet, as just four years later, he would return to the bench and coach the Isles for another four seasons. After the 1993-94 season, Arbour finally called it quits on a coaching career in which he coached (at that time) 1,607 games, won 782 games and four Stanley Cups.
On January 25th, 1997, Arbour returned to the Coliseum and had a banner raised to the rafters with the number 739 on it, which signified how many games he had won as coach of the Islanders. But Arbour would coach again, although it was just one more game. On November 3rd, 2007, Arbour returned to the bench and coached his 1,500th game with the Islanders at the request of the Isles head coach at the time, Ted Nolan. The Islanders defeated the rival Pittsburgh penguins that night by a score of 3-2, giving Arbour career win number 740 with the Islanders.
Arbour currently ranks second all time in career coaching wins behind the great Scotty Bowman. Arbour was always very well respected by the players he coached because of his ability to relate to them and be available for them at all times. Arbour’s ability to take the Islanders, an upstart expansion team, to new heights in such a short time was just absolutely incredible.
To be clear, nobody knows how long Arbour has been fighting this battle and we can only hope he fights this one like he has his whole life: like a champion. We hope that the Isles legendary coach will be able to come down to the Coliseum for one last time this season to help close down the building.
Keep on fighting, Al