Legends of Hockey - Induction Showcase - Al Arbour
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1996 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees

Al Arbour
Builders' Category

Alger Joseph Arbour was one of the most successful head coaches in NHL history. As of 1996 his career totals of 1,606 games behind the bench and 781 victories trailed only Scotty Bowman in the record books. Arbour's guidance contributed significantly to the New York Islanders' rapid ascent to competitive status and subsequent run of four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983.
Born on November 1, 1932 in Sudbury, Ontario, Arbour played defence on the junior Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey Association. He distinguished himself as a junior and was signed by the Detroit Red Wings. Arbour gained his professional baptism of fire with the Edmonton Flyers of the Western Hockey League in 1952-53. He split the next four years between Edmonton, Detroit and Sherbrooke of the Quebec Senior League.
In 1957-58 Arbour enjoyed his first full NHL campaign in the red and white of the Wings. Following that season he was claimed by the Chicago Blackhawks where he toiled for three years including a Stanley Cup triumph in 1961. Arbour next played four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and earned his second Stanley Cup ring in 1962. After spending the 1966-67 season off the ice, he returned to add experience and stability to the defence corps of the expansion St. Louis Blues in 1967-68. Early in the 1970-71 season,he retired as a player with in excess of 600 games played and almost fourteen years of service to his credit.

Upon retiring, Arbour was immediately hired to stand in as the coach of the Blues for the remainder of the 1970-71 campaign. Over the last 50 games of the schedule the team responded well by posting a 21-15-14 mark before losing to the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals.

Arbour guided St. Louis on an interim basis during the next two seasons but jumped at the greatest challenge of his young coaching career in 1973. Prior to the 1973-74 schedule, the New York Islanders were coming off a difficult expansion season in which they accumulated only 30 points. The organization felt it had some promise and required a young ambitious figure to steer the team in the right direction. Arbour's positive impact on the team was immediate. The squad improved its total to 56 points and contained one of the game's brightest young stars in rookie defenseman Denis Potvin.

The 1974-75 season witnessed the arrival of Arbour's Islanders as a competitive NHL franchise. They won 33 games during the regular season and enjoyed a remarkable playoff run. They eventually succumbed to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers in a seven game semifinal series.

During each of the next four seasons the Islanders finished with more than 100 points. This did not translate into a Stanley Cup success but the team did gain valuable big game experience. Following the 1978-79 campaign Arbour was presented the Jack Adams award as the NHL's top coach. In 1979-80 the Islanders attained their ultimate goal by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games to win the Stanley Cup in the franchise's eighth season. They repeated this feat in each of the next three years to become only the third NHL club to win four consecutive Stanley Cups. Their drive for five consecutive championships fell short when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1984 Final.
Arbour marshaled the Islanders to solid if unspectacular results before stepping down following the 1985-86 season. He served as the organization's Vice-President of Player Development before returning as the team's bench boss part way through the 1988-89 season. Arbour's contribution to the development of hockey in the United States was acknowledged in 1992 when his name was engraved on the Lester Patrick Trophy. The pinnacle of his second instalment behind the New York bench occurred in 1992-93 when they upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to reach the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Arbour retired as a coach following the 1993-94 season with 781 career wins to place him second only to Scotty Bowman in the NHL record books. Most of these victories came as coach of the New York Islanders which he helped turn into one of the greatest success stories in league history. Since 1994 Arbour has continued his productive association with the club in the capacity of Vice-President of Hockey Operations.
 1996 Inductees


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