Al Arbour, who set an NHL record by coaching 1,500 games, has died at age 81. As the head coach of the New York Islanders, he led the team to four Stanley Cup championships in 19 seasons. He also won four NHL titles as a player.
“Al will always be remembered as one of, if not the, greatest coaches ever to stand behind a bench in the history of the National Hockey League,” Islanders President and General Manager Garth Snow said, as the team announced Arbour’s death Friday.
“Arbour was being treated for Parkinson’s disease and dementia near his home in Sarasota, Fla.,” NHL.com reports.
When he retired in 1994, Arbour had logged 1,499 games as a coach. He made it an even 1,500 in 2007, when the Islanders brought him back to coach one game. An inductee of the NHL Hall of Fame, Arbour won 782 games as a coach — second all-time to Scotty Bowman (1,244 wins).
During his playing days, Arbour, a defenseman, was on Stanley Cup-winning teams for the Detroit Red Wings (1954), Chicago Blackhawks (1961), and the Toronto Maple Leafs (1962 and ’64).
Born in Sudbury, Canada, Arbour became a coach after playing in the NHL and other pro leagues for parts of three decades. He spent three years as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues, moving into that role directly after playing there.
In 1973, Arbour became the head coach of the Islanders, a young team that he eventually turned into a perennial contender.
From The New York Times:
“With General Manager Bill Torrey supplying the future Hall of Famers Denis Potvin on defense, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies at forward and Billy Smith in goal, Arbour coached the Islanders to the league championship from 1980 to 1983. The Islanders became the second franchise in N.H.L. history to win four consecutive Stanley Cup titles, the Montreal Canadiens having captured five straight Cups from 1956 to 1960 and four straight in the seasons before the Islanders’ streak.”
Arbour is survived by his wife, Claire, and children Joann, Jay, Julie and Janice.