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Al Arbour Obituary

11/1/1932 - 8/28/2015| Visit Guest Book
Al Arbour (Jim McIsaac / Getty Image)
Al Arbour (Jim McIsaac / Getty Image)
Al Arbour, the bespectacled gentleman of a coach who molded a young, talented New York Islanders franchise into a National Hockey League dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups in the early 1980s, has died. He was 82.

Mr. Arbour had Parkinson’s disease and dementia, the team announced Aug. 28. The date and place of death were not disclosed. He had been living in Longboat Key, near Sarasota, Florida.

Beginning with the 1973-1974 season, Mr. Arbour led the Islanders to 15 playoff appearances and won 119 playoff games — an league record with one team — during 19 seasons. His 740 regular-season wins with the Islanders are the most with one NHL team.

Mr. Arbour, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996 in the “builder” category, had success as a player, but his real talent was in coaching.

Alger Joseph Arbour was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Nov. 1, 1932. He broke into the NHL as a defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings during the 1953-1954 season.

During an NHL career that spanned 14 seasons, he was on championship teams with the Red Wings (1954), the Chicago Blackhawks (1961) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (1962 and 1964). His final four seasons were with the expansion St. Louis Blues, with whom he played in three more Stanley Cup finals. The Blues also gave him his start as a coach.

As coach, Mr. Arbour won 782 games, making him the NHL’s second-winningest coach, behind his mentor, Scotty Bowman (1,244). The Islanders also set a league record by winning 19 consecutive playoff series. The streak ended in 1984 when the Islanders reached their fifth straight Stanley Cup final but lost to Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, who went on to win five championships in seven years. The Islanders have not been to the finals since.

No team in any major North American sport has won four straight titles since Mr. Arbour’s Islanders did it. The Montreal Canadiens hold the NHL record with five straight titles (1956-1960).

Mr. Arbour’s success was a result of a lengthy period of stability on Long Island, where he was the coach of a team that was built by general manager Bill Torrey, the franchise’s first employee. In their heyday, the Islanders’ core players included forwards Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, defenseman Denis Potvin and goalie Billy Smith.

Mr. Arbour’s last win came in 2007, when the Islanders brought the then 75-year-old out of retirement to coach his 1,500th game with the franchise. New York beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2.

Mr. Arbour’s death comes with the Islanders in transition. The franchise is moving from its longtime — and outdated — home, Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the upcoming season.

The NHL named Mr. Arbour its coach of year in 1979. He also was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1992 for contributions to hockey in the United States.


Copyright © 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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