Detroit Red Wings legend Al Arbour who helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1954 passed away at the age of 82. The veteran defenseman who played three years with the Red Wings died at his home in Sarasota, Florida Friday. Arbour suffered from Parkinson’s disease and dementia that took a toll on his health but not his legendry.
The Sudbury, Ontario native was born on the first of November, 1932 growing up to spend a good chunk of his career in the minor leagues. He then made his way to the National Hockey League for his tough play on the ice. His 16 years in the NHL brought plenty of memories starting with his debut playing for the Red Wing alongside the likes of Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio and Gordie Howe where he won a Stanley Cup with them.
After playing three seasons with Detroit, he went on to join the Chicago Blackhawks where he helped them win the cup in 1961 in his third season. He then went to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs assisting them in hoisting the cup in 1962 and 1964.
After another long stint in the American Hockey league, Arbour went on to play for the newly founded St. Louis Blues where he helped take the team to the Stanley Cup Final in their first three seasons. He decided to call his a career on the ice in 1971 taking over for Scotty Bowman coaching on and off before he was let go by the front office two years later.
While his luck didn’t go well in the Midwest a new team was making its way into the league with their eyes set on Arbour. In their second season, New York Islanders General Manager Bill Torrey called it upon himself to give Arbour a shot at coaching the team. The two spent years together in the AHL and Torrey felt right about his decision. “I knew Al for a long time,” Torrey said during a 2011 interview. “There are some people you just have a sense or a feel that they fit the situation. I think the most important thing we were looking at immediately was to rebuild our defense.
The Iles did more than just rebuild, they improved significantly over the late 1970s. After going 12-60-6 in their first year, everything changed under the tutelage of Arbour. They won 19 games and allowed no more than 100 goals in his first year behind the bench. His second year got the team into the Stanley Cup semifinals defeating the Rangers and the Penguins where they became the second team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
Things began to slow down in terms of success leaving Arbour with a solid team but not enough to get them to the cup. All of that took a turn for the better, as they became a dynasty in the early 1980s. In their defeat of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Islanders celebrated their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups.
When they lost in 1984 to the Edmonton Oilers the banners stopped hanging at the Nassau Memorial Coliseum. Arbour coached New York to two more playoff appearances before announcing his retirement in 1986 after they lost to the Washington Capitals in the postseason.
Two years later he tried to get back behind the bench to restart a new hockey dynasty but it didn’t go as planned retiring once again in 1994 before being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.
With his name forever immortalized, there was still one thing missing to go along with his credentials… an even numbered win count. It arrived on his 75th birthday when the Islanders invited him back behind the bench for one game where under the approval of coach Ted Nolan and GM Garth Snow, Arbour watched his Isles defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 giving him his 1,500th game as coach and his 740th victory with New York. Overall he had 782 wins making him second on the all time list.
Aside from his success on the ice, Arbour was honored with the Jack Adams Award in 1979 and later accepted the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contributions to hockey in the United States.
“Al will always be remembered as one of, if not the greatest coaches ever to stand behind a bench in the history of the NHL,” Snow said in a statement. “The New York Islanders franchise has four Stanley Cups to its name thanks in large part to Al’s incredible efforts. From his innovative coaching methods to his humble way of life away from the game, Al is one of the reasons the New York Islanders are a historic franchise. On behalf of the entire organization we send out deepest condolences to the entire Arbour family.”