Legends of Hockey - Induction Showcase - Al Arbour
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
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
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
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.