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Our Time With Al

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

On Monday, Aug. 29, 2015, New York Islanders alumni, current players and hockey royalty gathered for a celebration of Al Arbour’s life. They celebrated a man who won 782 games - third most in the NHL, second most at the time of his retirement - and won eight Stanley Cups, four as the Islanders’ coach and four as a player.

Arbour meant a lot to a lot of different people and each one had their own memories and feelings to share on Monday. recapped the event here, but we wanted to present more memories of Al. Below are excerpts from Monday’s memorial:

Bobby Nystrom - Islanders Alumni, 4-Time Stanley Cup Champion

I’ve always said that there are two people in this world that can have the most profound impact on your life, that is a teacher and a coach. The gentleman I want to speak of today was both a teacher and a coach and, aside from my parents, he had the biggest impact on my life.

So much of what I accomplished has been because of Al. He’s been an inspiration. One of the most valuable lessons that he taught us was that you should never fear losing. He’d say ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen if you lose? You’ll wake up tomorrow, the sun will come out. But wouldn’t it be better to be on your toes attacking, wanting to be the hero who scores the goal in victory, rather than being on your heels because you’re afraid to make a mistake and lose?’

What is success? I think one measure is all the people you’ve come in contact with, how many did you help or positively affect? On this alone Al Arbour is head and shoulders above the rest of us. Just ask the hundreds of players he played with, or played for him. We will miss you Al, but we will never forget you, or what you taught us.

Mike Bossy - Islanders Alumni, 4-Time Stanley Cup Champion

I wasn’t drafted earlier because I wasn’t a very good player defensively, so I remember going up to Al at numerous practices and asking Al if I should be in a particular spot or another, or if I should be doing this or that. On the third day he looked at me and said ‘listen kid, if I have something to tell you about your defensive play I’ll tell you. We drafted you to score goals and I want you to score goals.’

At that time, it was life-changing advice for me at the time, knowing that I had a great defenseman and a great coach supporting the way I knew how to play hockey the best.

Jon Ledecky - New York Islanders co-owner

There’s a lot of love in this room today and I read something Al Arbour said after he won his third Stanley Cup in a row. He said I love these guys, I want to love them, kiss them and bring them home to Claire.

I heard from several alumni that they would go through a brick wall for Al Arbour and they still would today.

Butch Goring - Islanders Alumni, 4-Time Stanley Cup Champion, Coach and MSG+ Color Commentator

I’ve had success as a coach and I owe a lot of it to Al Arbour, the way he used to handle things and the suggestions he’d make.

I was coaching in Salt Lake and in a playoff series we lost the first game. Al came down to the dressing room and I was all concerned. He saw the look on my face and said what’s the problem Butch? I said we lost the first game. He said, worry when you’ve lost four.

Denis Potvin - Islanders Alumni, 4-Time Stanley Cup Champion

One time he got off the bus and attacked a mob at Madison Square Garden because one of them had thrown a beer bottle at the bus. He went out there, courageously, and you could see that that was totally a guy who just wanted to protect and love his players.

Ken Morrow - Islanders Alumni, 4-Time Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist

The lessons Al taught us on the ice were life lessons as well. He talked a lot about commanding respect, about facing adversity and never wavering and about responsibility, to your teammates, to the Islanders jersey, to the people of Long Island.

John Tavares - Islanders Captain

It gives you chills. You can just tell from all the stories… how special of a guy he was, what he meant to this organization and the impact he had on all of them.

It’s recognizing the standard and the tradition of the Islanders and what they mean to the community and what a guy like Al Arbour meant to the organization and the community here. You certainly want to carry that on and bring that excellence on and off the ice that he certainly brought.

It’s something great to reflect on and something to learn as well, so it was important to be here.


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