As Al Arbour prepares to coach his 1,500th regular season game with the Islanders on Saturday, we contacted NHL legend Scotty Bowman to get his thoughts on his longtime friend.
|Scotty Bowman |
Bowman coached Arbour for three seasons in St. Louis from 1967 - 1970. During that period, Arbour - a very steady veteran defenseman - was the team captain and the Blues went to the Stanley Cup Final each season. Arbour eventually succeeded Bowman as head coach in St. Louis and took that experience with him to Long Island, where Arbour was named Islanders head coach in 1973.
Through it all - including countless head-to-head matchups, the last being in 1993 when Arbour's Islanders defeated Bowman's two-time defending champion Penguins - the two have remained close. They even live near each other in Florida. When we reached Bowman over the phone, he was very happy to talk about his dear friend. Here's what he had to say:
"For my first job as an NHL head coach, I was so fortunate to have Al Arbour as my captain. Keep in mind this was during a time in the late Sixties when coaches didn't have a staff, so to have a player as experienced and dedicated as Al was a great benefit to me. In fact, he was really more of a player-coach than just a player. Before he came to St. Louis, Al played under Joe Crozier with the Rochester Americans in the AHL and that experience served him well when he began coaching.
"He was as vital a player as anyone when it came to those Blues teams making the Stanley Cup Final all three years Al and I were together.
"I remember two things about Al as a player. For starters, there wasn't a more consistent stay-at-home defenseman in that era than Al. When you consider there were so few teams during that time, think about the player someone the caliber of Al Arbour would be today! On defense, he was a tremendous role model for Barclay and Bob Plager and all of our younger players.
"The other thing is that Al was one of the most courageous players I've ever been associated with. When the Blues got him, Al was 35 and had played in a lot of games at the NHL and AHL level. But he played through so many injuries, the kind of injuries I saw keep other guys out of action for a while. I'll never forget that about him. He set an example for others to follow.
"As a coach, of course, Al Arbour put his stamp on the NHL forever. What he'll probably always be remembered for is how he molded a true TEAM. He had some brillinat players that had Hall of Fame careers like Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Trottier, Bossy, Gillies. But it was Al who got them to be part of the team fabric. If the all-stars do not buy in to Al's concept, the Islanders do not become a dynasty.
|Al Arbour |
Al also worked wonders with the role players. Because he emphasized a team game and preached that the team always came first, the other players saw the commitment of the stars and the result was a team that worked as hard as any team in the league during that time. Al had a role for everyone on that team and was successful in getting each player to accept his role.
"Al had so much success as a coach because of his no-nonsense personality. I'm told that if there was ever a problem on the ice or behind the scenes, Al was a master communicator. He never let problems fester.
"And, of course, he was as good as anyone as a bench manager. They used to say the Islanders could beat you any style you wanted to play them. Al always pulled the right strings.
"He's always been a good friend and I'm so proud of everything he has accomplished. Saturday night is going to be an amazing time for Al and Claire and their family. I wish them nothing but the best."Click here
to find out more about Al Arbour Night, #1500. And click here
to see the extended coverage of this historic night.To purchase your tickets for Al Arbour Night, #1500 when the Islanders host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at the Coliseum, click here.
LIMITED EDITION ARBOUR #1,500 JERSEYS ON SALE
Only 100 Islanders sweaters signed by Al, available now!
Be a part of history when legendary head coach Al Arbour returns to coach his 1500th NHL game this Saturday, when the Islanders battle Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Whether you attend the game or not, you can keep a piece of the game with you forever with an exclusive Al Arbour limited edition signed replica jersey.
The jersey contains an Al Arbour #1500 commemorative patch on the shoulder that each player will wear during the game. In addition, another limited edition numbered patch at the base of the jersey includes Mr. Arbour's signature.
Only 100 of these jerseys will be sold, so act now before it's too late.
To pre-order the limited edition Al Arbour jersey, please visit the Islanders Team Store at the Broadway Mall or e-mail the Merchandise Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. If jerseys still remain, fans cans purchase them directly at one of the merchandise stands during the Al Arbour #1500 contest on November 3.Please note that tomorrow's Family Fan Fest will be inside in the Expo Center, which can be found by making a U-turn to your right when you come down the escalators, located at the East entrance.To see video of Al Arbour, search "ARBOUR" in Islanders TV video console.