NEW YORK -- Al Arbour has one more milestone to reach behind
the New York Islanders bench.
Already with 739 Islanders wins -- the most for a coach with one
team in NHL history -- and four straight Stanley Cup championships
from 1980-83, Arbour will return to Long Island for one night to
lead the club for a record 1,500th time.
The Islanders announced Thursday that Arbour will coach the team Nov. 3 -- two days after his 75th birthday -- at home against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With permission from the NHL, Arbour will sign a one-day
contract on Nov. 2 -- taking over from current coach Ted Nolan -- and
then extend his mark for the most games coached with one team.
"This is an incredible gesture by Ted and the Islanders," the
Hall of Famer said in a statement released by the team. "I am
flattered that Ted thought of me and I wouldn't miss this night for
"I told the team that I do not want any pregame fanfare. I'm
there to coach the game and help Ted and my Islanders try to earn
two points against a very tough team."
The idea came from Nolan, who grew tired of what he saw on a
ceiling-to-floor clear plastic board in the hallway leading to the
team's dressing room that highlights Islanders award winners and
all kinds of statistical achievements.
"Every day it would kill me when I'd see Coach Arbour made it
to 1,499 games," Nolan said in the statement.
He spoke to Arbour earlier this week, and the one-day coaching
plan was hatched.
"I asked [general manager] Garth Snow if we could bring Coach
back for one more game and to ask the NHL office to recognize it,"
Nolan said. "They did, Coach Arbour emphatically said he was on
board and now I can't wait.
"It's going to be an amazing night, I can guarantee you that.
To me, Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman are the two greatest coaches in
The numbers support Nolan's claim.
Arbour is 739-537-223 in his 1,499 games with the Islanders.
Including a three-year stint with the St. Louis Blues, Arbour has
781 wins, second only to Bowman's 1,244. Bowman also leads with
2,141 games coached, 535 more than Arbour.
In the playoffs, the numbers are even more impressive. He went
119-79 with the Islanders in the postseason, punctuated by the
dynasty years in the early 80s. He is one of three, joining Dick
Irvin and Toe Blake, to coach in five consecutive Stanley Cup
Arbour, the NHL coach of the year in 1979, was behind the bench
for an NHL-record 19 straight playoff-winning series from 1980-84.
"As a former player of Al's I am looking forward to seeing him
adjust his glasses and brush his hair aside one more time," said
Hall of Fame forward Mike Bossy, who played nine of his 10 NHL
seasons under Arbour. "Al Arbour put his stamp on what the New
York Islanders are all about -- heart, grit and character. It's
perfect that he'll be sharing the bench with a man in Ted who
believes in the same philosophy.
"Anyone who's close to Al knows he's taking this very seriously
and won't allow himself to soak it all in and enjoy the fan support
until the game is over. He's probably already breaking down
Pittsburgh game tape."
The Sudbury, Ontario, native coached the Blues -- a team he
captained in the late 1960s -- from 1970-73. He joined the Islanders
in 1973 and stayed through the 1985-86 season, capturing five
Patrick Division titles to go with the four Cup championships.
"He coached that team from when they were down and out, taking
them up to the level they got to," former Islanders captain and
new Devils coach Brent Sutter told The Associated Press in a phone
interview. "He was a real players' coach. He would get in guys'
faces and he would challenge them.
"But he had a very loving side and a very caring side that they
all had a tremendous amount of respect for him."
After a two-year hiatus, Arbour returned to the New York bench
in 1988 for a six-season stint -- including a surprising run to the
Eastern Conference finals in 1993 -- that wrapped up his career.
That is until now.
"I really became a student of the game playing for Al," said
Sutter, an Islander under Arbour for 10 years. "He was fatherlike
to me. He taught me so much about the game and how to be a pro and
how to handle situations.
"More importantly, he taught me the mental toughness part of
Arbour, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, has his
"No. 739" retired, and a banner hangs from the Nassau Coliseum
rafters commemorating his victory total with the team.