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Islanders Award Winners: Al Arbour, Jack Adams Trophy, 1979

Our series of audio documentaries returns with the story of Al Arbour’s one-and-only NHL Coach of the Year season.

Season Two of Islanders Awards Winners is finally here. It’s taken far too long to get to this point, but I’m proud of how these episodes turned out and I’m excited to finally release them to the world. Thank you all in advance for listening.

The story of Al Arbour’s one NHL Coach of the Year season begins and ends with devastating losses. In between was a franchise-record winning streak, several of the best individual seasons in team history, and the often ruthless pursuit of perfection. Arbour was a complex man - a hockey innovator who wore “dark suits and white shirts and ties that look like they were given as Christmas presents” and a father figure who pushed his players relentlessly, sometimes to the point of exasperation.

But his drive was to win the Stanley Cup under any circumstance. And any stumble, no matter how minor, was unacceptable. Arbour was not afraid to butt heads with his best and most loyal players and they all understood it was all done in service of making them the best the could be.

Arbour’s use of video review, notes on opposing teams’ tactics and installation of assistant coaches were all ahead of their time. The leaning on his wife Claire to not only record out-of-town games but to find out more about players’ family lives in order to better understand and help them when he could, was critical and should not be overlooked.

Man, what I would give to read those notebooks he kept on other teams. I can’t even imagine the sheer amount of hockey knowledge they contained. Maybe they’ll be released some day...

Here are some extra pictures and stories from the time:

Research and other assistance was provided by Kevin Schultz. Visit, where you can buy t-shirts, hoodies and mugs featuring the logos over over 100 classic hockey teams from all across North America, as well as our own Al Arbour tribute shirt. Use the code ANXIETY20 to get 20 percent off an order of two items. Our portion of the sales go directly to the Center for Dementia Research.

This episode of Islanders Award Winners was written using archival material from Newsday, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and the books New York Islanders: Countdown to A Dynasty by Barry Wilner, and Dynasty: The Oral History of the New York Islanders 1972-1984 by Greg Prato.

The following video clips were also used in the podcast:

In the next episode of Islanders Award Winners: a goalie with a promising future battles something much scarier than NHL shooters, but emerges later with an award and a new look at life.