Happy Father's Day everyone!
Al Arbour was a coach and mentor to hundreds of players throughout his legendary career behind the bench, but for many, he was much more than that. Young players became men under Arbour's watchful eye and guiding hand, learning as much about life as they did hockey.
He wasn't just a coach; he was a father figure.
"He was a tremendous mentor on and off the ice," captain Denis Potvin said after Arbour's passing in 2015. "My dad, who passed away several years ago, said if I had to leave you to another dad, Al Arbour is the right guy for you."
Arbour set the tone and expectations for the organization when he took over as head coach in 1973, leaning on what he learned from Scotty Bowman in St. Louis and adding his own personal touch. After one losing season, he had the Islanders in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1975, upsetting the New York Rangers in the preliminary round and coming back from down 3-0 in the next series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Al was a great motivator. He was probably our father figure in the fact that we all respected him so much. He had a great command of the room."- Bryan Trottier
Arbour treated his team like a family and instilled an unshakeable belief that they could always win if they stuck together. Players from his teams in the 1970a to his final years in the 1990s marvel at how he knew just the right way to motivate the room and get the most out of his team.
"He was a fatherly-like type of a guy to us all, just not our hockey coach," said Brent Sutter to SportsNet. "He knew when to pay you on the back, he knew when you needed a kick, but everything was always done with a tremendous amount of respect."
“He was more than a coach, he was a father figure to everybody,” said Patrick Flatley. “He was a smart guy…He treated everyone differently and he knew when they needed a pat on the back and when they needed a kick in the rear. He knew when to do each and he never made a mistake.
Arbour made the playoffs 15 times on Long Island, famously winning four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-1983, and was inducted into the Hall-of-Fame in 1996 after retiring in 1994 with 739 career wins, the most of any coach with one franchise in NHL history.
In 2007, at the behest of head coach Ted Nolan, Arbour was brought back to coach his 1,500th game on Nov. 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum. After the 3-2 win, the banner recognizing his 739 career wins was lowered and replaced by one commemorating his 1,500 career games as Islanders coach.
Even with all the accolades, those that knew him best always talked about Arbour as a husband, father, and family man before they talked about him as a coach. He carried a big presence, but it was a genuine one that commanded and deserved respect. His players loved this leader of men as a coach and as a father, and his lessons led to success on and off the ice.