How do we even start talking about the legacy of Al Arbour? That's a sincere question. Because I have no idea.
We could run down his life and playing career and coaching career and throw all kinds of astounding numbers at you (starting with the 19 straight playoff series victories and moving on down the list), but that's only the tip of the iceberg for Arbour.
Without Al Arbour, there is no win over the Rangers or comeback victory over the Penguins in '75. There is no Dynasty. There is no 1993 run to the Conference Finals. There is no 1,500th game celebration.
There are no New York Islanders.
Without the New York Islanders, there is no us.
We've posted a lot of stories and remembrances of Arbour over the years not because we like to wallow in the past but because the man and his methods were never not fascinating to us on the outside. As fans, we could only ever watch (or more likely read) from afar about how one man guided a team to an incredible level of success that we may never see again. I'm sure Bill Torrey, Arbour's equally legendary boss for so many years, would say the job wasn't just about throwing a bunch of Hall of Famers into the same locker room.
There will never be another Al Arbour and the best we can do is to keep his memory and legacy alive by revisiting his words and relationships with the players he helped shape.
Each of these links is packed with additional links to stories about Arbour's effect on his players and his place in NHL history.
Maybe the best place to start paying tribute to the coach is by contemplating his direct effect on us first.
On June 10, 1973, Bill Torrey hired a coach who originally refused the offer, fearing New York was too much urban life for him. But after visiting Long Island and getting a proper tour, Al Arbour realized the picturesque outdoors away from the big city (and away from the Coliseum visiting teams see) were enough comfort to make him feel right at home.
But holy cow sometimes that achievement just demands revisiting, to marvel all over again. When Tim Thomas talks about the physical and mental drain of winning one Stanley Cup, I can't help looking back in awe: Now imagine winning four.
Playing for Al Arbour inspired a few to enter the coaching ranks themselves. None quite got to Arbour's level.
I remember when I followed the NFL, "coaching trees" were a big offseason topic. Disciples of Bill Walsh, disciples of Bill Parcells, disciples of Rick Koti-- um, er, scratch that last one. So disciples of Al Arbour oughta be a nice exercise, no? It's August, anyway. Here's a look at many of Arbour's former charges-turned-coaches. What I learned from this research: The student has definitely NOT become the master...
In which... yeah
"Brent Sutter had the best one because he followed him into the bathroom and when they were standing next to each other in front of the urinal, he hit Al with the pie in the ear.
"So Al came out with the pie stuck to the side of his head and he started a new traditional called the 'pie in the ear' and Al said, 'No wonder you haven't scored a goal in a while young Mr. Sutter, you can't even hit me with a pie in the face from one foot away' and that became a huge joke."
Hockey Night in Canada covers Al's special appearance behind the Islanders bench in 2007.
This HNIC video is some good stuff, including how he got the "Radar" nickname (Jack Adams yelled at him as a player: "You blind-eyed, cinemascope, radar sonuvabitch."
Commenter Head of Metal on his memories of that night
Either the fury had reached breakout levels or Arbour had said something awesome to the bench, because from then on out the Isles played like a different, better team.
Most recently, Arbour had suffered from dementia and Parkinson's Disease. We have dedicated our Lighthouse Hockey T-shirt Store to donating funds to the Center for Dementia Research in the hopes of finding out as much about this heartbreaking affliction as we can. Whether you buy a shirt or not, please consider donating to the center.