Al Arbour

Alger Joseph Arbour (November 1, 1932 – August 28, 2015) was a Canadian ice hockey player, coach, and executive. He is third to Joel Quenneville for games coached in National Hockey League history[1] and fourth all-time in wins, behind Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Ken Hitchcock. Under Arbour, the New York Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983. Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Arbour played amateur hockey as a defenceman with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. He played his first professional games with the Detroit Red Wings in 1953. Claimed by the Chicago Black Hawks in 1958, Arbour would help the team win a championship in 1961. Arbour played with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the next five years, winning another Cup in 1962. He was selected by the St. Louis Blues in their 1967 expansion draft and played his final four seasons with the team.

Al Arbour
Al Arbour in 1977
Born(1932-11-01)November 1, 1932
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
DiedAugust 28, 2015(2015-08-28) (aged 82)

Coaching career
Team(s)Iowa Hawkeyes, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues
Stanley Cup wins1980, 1981, 1982, 1983
Years as a coach1970–2008
Years as an NHL coach1970–2008
Ice hockey career
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1996 (Builder)
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight 180 lb (82 kg; 12 st 12 lb)
Position Defence
Shot Left
Played for Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Black Hawks
Toronto Maple Leafs
St. Louis Blues
Playing career 19491971

During his last year with the Blues, Arbour was hired mid-season to coach the team. In 107 games, he led them to a 42–40–25 record, but only one playoff series win. After a woeful expansion year, the New York Islanders hired Arbour as coach in 1973. Arbour led the team to a winning record every season from 1974–75 until he stepped down in 1985–86. Arbour won nineteen consecutive playoff series, which remains an NHL and North American sports record. He was awarded the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach in 1979. Upon retiring from the bench, Arbour was named vice-president of player development for the Islanders. He returned to coach the Islanders in the 1988–89 season and remained there through 1993-94, notably upsetting the two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1993 playoffs. He was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contributions to the sport and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.

Playing career

Arbour started his playing career in 1954 with the Detroit Red Wings, winning the Stanley Cup.[2] He later skated for the Chicago Black Hawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and St. Louis Blues. Arbour also won the Stanley Cup as a player with the 1960–61 Chicago Black Hawks and the 1961–62 and 1963–64 Toronto Maple Leafs.[3][4] Arbour, along with teammate Ed Litzenberger, is one of eleven players to win consecutive Stanley Cups with two different teams.[5] He is one of only 11 players in Stanley Cup history to win the Cup with three or more different teams.[6] Arbour was also the first captain of the expansion St. Louis Blues,[7] and played for them when they lost in Cup finals in 1968, 1969, 1970 (all in four consecutive games). One of the few professional athletes to wear eyeglasses when competing, Arbour was the last NHL player to wear them on the ice.[7][8] Arbour was also known for laying down in front of the goaltender to block shots on goal with his body.

Coaching career Iowa Hawkeyes to NHL

Arbour began his coaching career with the Iowa Hawkeyes hockey team in 1967 and at the time lead them in his first year to ther best record at .500 then he went to the NHL in St. Louis in 1970, taking over as coach after playing for the Blues for parts of four seasons.[1] Following two additional seasons with St. Louis, he was recruited by GM Bill Torrey to take over a young New York Islanders team that had set a then-NHL record for futility by winning only 12 games in their inaugural season, 1972–73.

New York Islanders (1973–1986)

In his first season as Isles' coach, Arbour's team finished last in the league for the second year in a row, but gave up 100 fewer goals and earned 56 points, up from 30 the year before. New York Rangers defenceman Brad Park said after the Islanders beat their crosstown rivals for the first time, "They have a system. They look like a hockey team."[9]

The 1974–75 Islanders finished third in their division with 88 points, which qualified them for the playoffs, where they defeated the Rangers in overtime of the deciding third game of their first-round series. In the next round, the Isles found themselves down three games to none in a best of seven quarter-final series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders rebounded with three straight victories to tie the series, then prevailed in Game 7 by a score of 1–0.[9] It was only the second time in major sports history, and the first since 1942, that a team won a series after trailing 3–0. The Islanders then faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the next round, again fell behind 3–0, and once again tied the series, although the Flyers prevailed in Game 7 and went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup.[9]

Despite achieving great regular season success, culminating in the 1978–79 campaign in which they finished with the best record in the NHL, the Islanders suffered a series of letdowns in the playoffs. In both 1976 and 1977, they lost in the semi-finals to the eventual champion Montreal Canadiens, and then suffered an upset loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1978 quarter-finals, on a game-winning goal by Lanny McDonald in overtime of Game 7. Then, in 1979, the rival Rangers defeated Arbour's Islanders in the semi-finals 4–2.[9] Arbour won the Jack Adams Award for the team's stellar regular season.[1]

During the 1979–80 season, the Islanders struggled. However, following the acquisition of Butch Goring in March, the Islanders completed the regular season with a 12-game unbeaten streak. The regular season run carried over to the playoffs and the Islanders captured their first Stanley Cup championship on May 24, 1980, by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime of Game 6.[9]

Arbour and the Islanders went on to capture 3 more Cups in a row, a record for an American hockey club. Along the way, they set records for consecutive regular season victories, consecutive Finals victories, and playoff series victories. By the time the Islanders were dethroned by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals, they had strung together 19 straight playoff series victories, a professional sports record.[1] No team in any of the four major sports has strung together four consecutive championships since. The closest a team in any of the major four North American professional sports has come was when the New York Yankees (MLB), who were one out away from their fourth consecutive World Series championship, fell in the seventh game of the series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.

Arbour retired from coaching following the 1985–86 season and accepted a position in the Islanders front office as vice-president of player development.[1]

Return to coaching (1988–1994)

Following a disappointing start to the 1988–89 season, Torrey fired Terry Simpson, and Arbour returned to the bench. Most of the veterans of the dynasty had since left the team, and the Islanders missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Arbour had one more run deep into the playoffs in 1992–93, where he led the Islanders past the two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and to the Prince of Wales Conference Finals.[1] Islanders star Pierre Turgeon, who was seriously injured after Dale Hunter hit him from behind in the previous round, missed all but a few shifts of the second-round series against Pittsburgh. The Mario Lemieux-led Penguins had finished first in the regular season. Arbour's Islanders defeated Pittsburgh in overtime of the seventh game of the series. In the semifinals, the Islanders lost to the eventual champion Montreal Canadiens.[9]

Arbour retired after the 1993–94 season, having led the Islanders to a second playoff berth where they were swept in the first round by the Presidents' Trophy-winning New York Rangers, who went on to capture the Stanley Cup. At that time Arbour had won 739 games as an Islander coach, and a banner with that number was raised to the rafters at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on January 25, 1997.[10]


On November 3, 2007, Arbour returned, at the request of Islanders coach Ted Nolan, to coach his 1,500th game for the Islanders.[11] At age 75, he became the oldest man ever to coach a National Hockey League game.[8] The Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3–2, giving Arbour his 740th win. The 739-win banner was brought down, and replaced with one with the number 1500, representing the total number of games coached.[12] He is the only coach in NHL history to coach 1,500 games for the same team.

Arbour and his wife, Claire, lived in Longboat Key, Florida, and maintained a summer cottage in Sudbury. The couple had four children together.[11] In 2015, he underwent treatment for Parkinson's disease and dementia in Sarasota, Florida, eventually entering hospice care.[13] Arbour died on August 28, 2015, in Sarasota, Florida, aged 82.[14][15]


Career statistics

Playing career

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1949–50 Windsor Spitfires OHA-Jr. 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
1949–50 Detroit Hettche IHL 33 14 8 22 10 3 0 0 0 4
1950–51 Windsor Spitfires OHA-Jr. 31 5 4 9 27
1951–52 Windsor Spitfires OHA-Jr. 55 7 12 19 86
1952–53 Windsor Spitfires OHA-Jr. 56 5 7 12 92
1952–53 Washington Lions EAHL 4 0 2 2 0
1952–53 Edmonton Flyers WHL 8 0 1 1 2 15 0 5 5 10
1953–54 Detroit Red Wings NHL 36 0 1 1 18
1953–54 Sherbrooke Saints QHL 19 1 3 4 24 2 0 0 0 2
1954–55 Edmonton Flyers WHL 41 3 9 12 39
1954–55 Quebec Aces QHL 20 4 5 9 55 4 0 0 0 2
1955–56 Edmonton Flyers WHL 70 5 14 19 109 3 0 0 0 4
1955–56 Detroit Red Wings NHL 4 0 1 1 0
1956–57 Detroit Red Wings NHL 44 1 6 7 38 5 0 0 0 6
1956–57 Edmonton Flyers WHL 24 2 3 5 24
1957–58 Detroit Red Wings NHL 69 1 6 7 104 4 0 1 1 4
1958–59 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 70 2 10 12 86 6 1 2 3 26
1959–60 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 57 1 5 6 66 4 0 0 0 4
1960–61 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 53 3 2 5 40 7 0 0 0 2
1961–62 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 52 1 5 6 68 8 0 0 0 6
1962–63 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 4 1 0 1 4
1962–63 Rochester Americans AHL 63 6 21 27 97 2 0 2 2 2
1963–64 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 6 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
1963–64 Rochester Americans AHL 60 3 19 22 62 2 1 0 1 0
1964–65 Rochester Americans AHL 71 1 16 17 88 10 0 1 1 16
1964–65 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 1 0 0 0 2
1965–66 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 4 0 1 1 2
1965–66 Rochester Americans AHL 59 2 11 13 86 12 0 2 2 8
1966–67 Rochester Americans AHL 71 3 19 22 48 13 0 1 1 16
1967–68 St. Louis Blues NHL 74 1 10 11 50 14 0 3 3 10
1968–69 St. Louis Blues NHL 67 1 6 7 50 12 0 0 0 10
1969–70 St. Louis Blues NHL 68 0 3 3 85 14 0 1 1 16
1970–71 St. Louis Blues NHL 22 0 2 2 6 6 0 0 0 6
AHL totals 324 15 86 101 381 39 1 6 7 42
NHL totals 626 12 58 70 617 86 1 8 9 92

Coaching record

TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
GWLTPtsFinishWLWin %Result
STL1970–71 50211514562nd in West24.333Lost in Quarter-finals
STL1971–72 4419196443rd in West47.364Lost in Semi-finals
STL1972–73 13265(9)(fired)
STL Total107424025109611.3532 playoff appearances
NYI1973–74 78194118568th in EastMissed playoffs
NYI1974–75 80332522883rd in Patrick78.467Lost in Semifinals
NYI1975–76 804221171012nd in Patrick76.538Lost in Semifinals
NYI1976–77 804721121062nd in Patrick84.667Lost in Semifinals
NYI1977–78 804817151111st in Patrick34.429Lost in Quarterfinals
NYI1978–79 805115141161st in Patrick96.600Lost in Semifinals
NYI1979–80 80392813912nd in Patrick156.714Won Stanley Cup
NYI1980–81 804818141101st in Patrick153.833Won Stanley Cup
NYI1981–82 805416101181st in Patrick154.789Won Stanley Cup
NYI1982–83 80422612962nd in Patrick155.750Won Stanley Cup
NYI1983–84 80502641041st in Patrick129.571Lost in Stanley Cup Finals
NYI1984–85 8040346863rd in Patrick46.400Lost in Division Finals
NYI1985–86 80392912903rd in Patrick03.000Lost in Division Semifinals
NYI1988–89 5321293456th in PatrickMissed playoffs
NYI1989–90 80313811734th in Patrick14.200Lost in Division Semifinals
NYI1990–91 80254510606th in PatrickMissed playoffs
NYI1991–92 80343511795th in PatrickMissed playoffs
NYI1992–93 8440377873rd in Patrick99.500Lost in Conference Finals
NYI1993–94 84363612844th in Atlantic04.000Lost in Conference Quarterfinals
NYI2007–08 11002
NYI total1,5007405372231,70311476.60015 playoff appearances
4 Stanley Cups
Total1,6077825772481,81211883.58717 playoff appearances
4 Stanley Cups


  1. "Legends of Hockey: Al Arbour". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  2. Nelson, Andrea (August 20, 2012). "Dual Citizenship: Al Arbour: Hockey Hall of Famer got his start with Red Wings". Detroit Red Wings. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  3. Diamond, D. (1992). The Official National Hockey League Stanley Cup Centennial Book, p. 266. Buffalo: Firefly Books. ISBN 1-895565-15-4
  4. Elliott, Josh (January 30, 2015). "Legendary coach Al Arbour welcomes fan notes in battle with dementia". The Hockey News. Archived from the original on March 31, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  5. "2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs". National Hockey League. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  6. "Players on Stanley-Cup Winning Teams". Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  7. Lee Enterprises. "Al Arbour dies; was Blues' first captain". Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  8. ISLES GIVE AL SHOT AT 1,500 Archived August 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. "Islanders History: Key Islanders Dates". New York Islanders. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  10. Weekes, Don (2003). The Best and Worst of Hockey's Firsts: The Unofficial Guide. Canada: Greystone Books. pp. 240. ISBN 9781550548600.
  11. Vecsey, George (November 3, 2007). "Al Arbour: The Man Behind the Glass". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  12. Podell, Ira (November 3, 2007). "Al Arbour to return to Islanders to coach 1,500th game with team". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  13. O'Neill, Dan (March 28, 2015). "Al Arbour has another kind of fight now". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  14. Halford, Mike (August 28, 2014). "Hall of Famer Al Arbour passes away". NBC Sports. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  15. "Al Arbour, Coach of Islanders' 1980s Dynasty, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  16. Oliver, Greg (2014). Written in Blue and White: The Toronto Maple Leafs Contracts and Historical Documents from the Collection of Allan Stitt. ECW Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-1770412156. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Position created
Red Berenson
St. Louis Blues captain
Succeeded by
Red Berenson
Jim Roberts
Preceded by
Scotty Bowman
Bill McCreary Sr.
Head coach of the St. Louis Blues
Succeeded by
Scotty Bowman
Jean-Guy Talbot
Preceded by
Earl Ingarfield, Sr.
Terry Simpson
Head coach of the New York Islanders
Succeeded by
Terry Simpson
Lorne Henning
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Bobby Kromm
Winner of the Jack Adams Award
Succeeded by
Pat Quinn
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