Al Arbour

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Al Arbour
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1996
Al Arbour 1977.jpg
Al Arbour in 1977
Born (1932-11-01) November 1, 1932 (age 82)
Sudbury, ON, CAN
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 1949–1971

Alger Joseph "Radar" Arbour (born November 1, 1932) is a retired Canadian National Hockey League player, coach, and executive. He is second to Scotty Bowman for most wins and games coached in league history. 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.

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 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 until 1994, notably upsetting the 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[edit]

Arbour during his time with the Detroit Red Wings, 1957

Arbour started his playing career in 1954 with the Detroit Red Wings, winning the Stanley Cup.[1] 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.[2][3] Arbour, along with teammate Ed Litzenberger, is one of eleven players to win consecutive Stanley Cups with two different teams.[4] He is one of only ten players in Stanley Cup history to win the Cup with three different teams.[5] Arbour was also the first captain of the expansion St. Louis Blues 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.[6]


Arbour began his coaching career with St. Louis in 1970, taking over as coach after playing for the Blues for parts of four seasons.[7] 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, 1973–86[edit]

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."[8]

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.[8] 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.[8]

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.[8] Arbour won the Jack Adams Award for the team's stellar regular season.[7]

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.[8]

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.[7] No team in any of the four major sports has strung together four straight championships since.

Arbour retired from coaching following the 1985–86 season and accepted a position in the Islanders front office as vice president of player development.[7]

Return to coaching, 1988–94[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]


On November 3, 2007, Arbour returned, at the request of Islanders coach Ted Nolan, to coach his 1,500th game for the Islanders. Arbour said, "Ted is going to do most of the coaching, I think."[10] At age 75, he became the oldest man ever to coach a National Hockey League game.[6] 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 number of games coached.[11]

Arbor is undergoing treatment for Parkinson's disease and dementia in Sarasota, Florida. He is currently in hospice care.[12]


Arbour is currently second in wins and games coached behind Scotty Bowman in NHL history.[7] He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, New York Islanders Hall of Fame, and Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame.

  • Jack Adams Award as Coach 1979[7]
  • Stanley Cup Champion as a player 1954 (Detroit), 1961 (Chicago), 1962, 1964 (Toronto)[3]
  • Stanley Cup Champion as Coach 1980–83 (Head Coach NY Islanders)[7]
  • Calder Cup Champion 1965, 1966 (with Rochester Americans)[13]

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T Pts Finish W L Win % Result
STL 70–71 50 21 15 14 56 -
STL 71–72 44 19 19 6 44 3rd in West 4 7 .364 Semi-finalist
STL 72–73 13 2 6 5 9
STL Total 107 42
109 4 7 .364 1 playoff appearance
NYI 73–74 78 19 41 18 56 8th in East
NYI 74–75 80 33 25 22 88 3rd in Norris 7 8 .333 Semi-finalist
NYI 75–76 80 42 21 17 101 2nd in Patrick 7 6 .538 Semi-finalist
NYI 76–77 80 47 21 12 106 2nd in Patrick 8 4 .667 Semi-finalist
NYI 77–78 80 48 17 15 111 1st in Patrick 3 4 .429 Quarter-finalist
NYI 78–79 80 51 15 14 116 1st in Patrick 9 6 .600 Semi-finalist
NYI 79–80 80 39 28 13 91 2nd in Patrick 15 6 .714 Won Stanley Cup
NYI 80–81 80 48 18 14 110 1st in Patrick 15 3 .833 Won Stanley Cup
NYI 81–82 80 54 16 10 118 1st in Patrick 15 4 .789 Won Stanley Cup
NYI 82–83 80 42 26 12 96 2nd in Patrick 15 5 .750 Won Stanley Cup
NYI 83–84 80 50 26 4 104 1st in Patrick 12 10 .545 Finalist
NYI 84–85 80 40 34 6 86 3rd in Patrick 4 6 .400 2nd round
NYI 85–86 80 39 29 12 90 3rd in Patrick 0 3 .000 Division semi-finalist
NYI 88–89 53 21 29 3 45 6th in Patrick
NYI 89–90 80 31 38 11 73 4th in Patrick 1 4 .200 Division semi-finalist
NYI 90–91 80 25 45 10 60 6th in Patrick
NYI 91–92 80 34 35 11 79 5th in Patrick
NYI 92–93 84 40 37 7 87 3rd in Patrick 9 9 .500 Conference finalist
NYI 93–94 84 36 36 12 84 4th in Atlantic 0 4 .000 Conference quarter-finalist
NYI 07–08 1 1 0 0 2
NYI total 1,500 740
1,703 114 76 .600 15 playoff appearances
4 Stanley Cups
Total 1,607 782
1,812 118 83 .587 16 playoff appearances
4 Stanley Cups

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ Diamond, D. (1992). The Official National Hockey League Stanley Cup Centennial Book, p. 266. Buffalo: Firefly Books. ISBN 1-895565-15-4
  3. ^ a b Elliott, Josh (January 30, 2015). "Legendary coach Al Arbour welcomes fan notes in battle with dementia". The Hockey News. Retrieved March 30, 2015. 
  4. ^ – The Stanley Cup
  5. ^ "Players on Stanley-Cup Winning Teams". Archived from the original on March 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  6. ^ a b . ISLES GIVE AL SHOT AT 1,500
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Legends of Hockey: Al Arbour". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 30, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Islanders History: Key Islanders Dates". New York Islanders. Retrieved March 30, 2015. 
  9. ^ Weekes, Don (2003). The Best and Worst of Hockey's Firsts: The Unofficial Guide. Canada: Greystone Books. p. 240. ISBN 9781550548600. 
  10. ^,0,6196123.story?coll=ny-islanders-print
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ O'Neill, Dan (March 28, 2015). "Al Arbour has another kind of fight now". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved March 30, 2015. 
  13. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Position created
St. Louis Blues captain
Succeeded by
Red Berenson
Preceded by
Red Berenson
St. Louis Blues captain
Succeeded by
Jim Roberts
Preceded by
Scotty Bowman
Head coach of the St. Louis Blues
Succeeded by
Scotty Bowman
Preceded by
Bill McCreary Sr.
Head coach of the St. Louis Blues
Succeeded by
Jean-Guy Talbot
Preceded by
Earl Ingarfield, Sr.
Head coach of the New York Islanders
Succeeded by
Terry Simpson
Preceded by
Bobby Kromm
Winner of the Jack Adams Award
Succeeded by
Pat Quinn
Preceded by
Terry Simpson
Head coach of the New York Islanders
Succeeded by
Lorne Henning