He’s in Florida now. With the exception of a one-game cameo in 2007 that gave him an even 1,500 games as coach of the New York Islanders, he hasn’t been behind the bench since the spring of 1994.
But as he turns 80 on Thursday,Bobby Clarke Jersey
Al Arbour’s place as one of the great coaches in NHL history is more than secure.
Arbour did his coaching apprenticeship in St. Louis, where he went from a glasses-wearing thirty-something defenseman to a rookie coach with a team that had been swept in three straight Stanley Cup Finals. After 107 games over parts of three seasons, the Blues let him go — but he wasn’t out of work long.
The 1972-73 New York Islanders set NHL records for futility in their first season, with first-time coaches Earl Ingarfield and Phil Goyette behind the bench. That summer, GM Bill Torrey turned to Arbour to get the Islanders on the right track.
But after visiting Long Island for the first time — and finding out it wasn’t like New York City — Arbour changed his mind and took the job.
The turnaround didn’t happen right away.Bobby Clarke Jersey
Arbour’s team finished last in the overall standings again in 1973-74 — but the Isles gave up 100 fewer goals and earned 56 points, up from 30 in their first season. All-Star defenseman Brad Park of the Rangers noted after the Isles finally beat their big-city rivals that, “They have a system. They look like a hockey team.”
One year later, the Arbour-coached Islanders made their first playoff appearance – and promptly upset the Rangers, winning the deciding game in overtime. They went on to become only the second team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit when they beat Pittsburgh in seven games in the Quarterfinals, and nearly did it again against Philadelphia, forcing a seventh game in the Semifinals before losing.