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Isles Pied Arbour in Birthday Tradition

Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies recall how the Islanders celebrated Coach Al Arbour's birthday

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

On November 1, 1975, Bryan Trottier had a task. 

As a rookie, Trottier had the un-enviable job of delivering a birthday pie to Head Coach Al Arbour for his 43rd birthday. The catch - he was going to pie him in the face. 

"Al was walking right behind me and Jean Potvin handed me the pie," Trottier said. "I just turned around and said 'Happy Birthday Al' and just plunked it in his face. I broke his glasses."

"Trots was not very delicate and still isn't," Clark Gillies said. "He certainly wasn't back in those days."

Trottier, the team's all-time leading scorer, was one of many Islanders who pied the late Hall of Fame coach, who won 740 games with the Islanders and passed away in 2015. It became a birthday tradition during his time with the Isles, though one that probably made the rookies holding the pie sweat more than the coach. 

"It was designed to have a newcomer, preferably a rookie, get Al with a pie in the face," Gillies said. "[Al] was good about it. We had some guys, I forget which rookie it was, but he hit in the face with one of those tin foil plates and I think it left an impression of Al's face he hit him so hard."

Brent Sutter reportedly pied Arbour in the ear one year and Pat Flatley allegedly missed him completely. 

"Al came out with the pie stuck to the side of his head and he started a new traditional called the 'pie in the ear,'" Trottier told NHL.com in 2009. "Al said, 'No wonder you haven't scored a goal in a while young Mr. Sutter, you can't even hit me with a pie in the face from one foot away' and that became a huge joke." 

Usually this type of prank would incur a coach's wrath, but Trottier and Gillies said Arbour, who was like a father figure to many Islanders, was happy to play along. 

"He didn't bench me, he just went on and the next day he had tape on his glasses and kind of rolled with it," Trottier said. "He could have gone 'hey rookie' but he didn't say a word. Just like that's what comes when you're part of a team. Whether you're the coach or a player, you're part of the team."

Video: Islanders: Al Arbour: The Father of the Dynasty

Trottier and Gillies can't remember how or why the tradition started, but they agree that it would have been a bold move the first time. 

"I want to know who that brave soul was," Trottier said of the first player to pie the coach. 

Gillies said Arbour would return the favor in some form or another and that there was a lighter side to the serious-looking coach. 

"The key to the whole thing was that Al had a sense of humor," Gillies said. "Such that you could get away with it - one day out of the year." 

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