A year and a day after the death of the legendary Al Arbour (1932-2015), the New York Islanders are hosting a memorial service to celebrate his life.
The general public is invited to reminisce about Arbour’s incredible National Hockey League (NHL) career with current and former Islander luminaries on Monday, Aug. 29, at 11:30 a.m., at Northwell Health Ice Center, 200 Merrick Ave., East Meadow. Those who RSVP’d to the team’s website prior to Monday, Aug. 15, guaranteed their admission to the gathering.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, so there may be room for additional last-minute attendees on Aug. 29. The Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders’ new official training facility, can hold more than 2,400 individuals. The doors will open at 10:30 a.m. There is no admission fee.
“Al will always be remembered as one of, if not, the greatest coaches ever to stand behind a bench in the history of the National Hockey League,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said, on the day Arbour died. “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.”
Elected to the NHL’s Hall of Fame in 1996, Arbour coached the St. Louis Blues before becoming the Islanders’ head coach for 19 non-consecutive seasons. His initial stint with the Islanders began at the start of the 1973-74 season, a year after they’d won only 12 games, and peaked when the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cup championships in the early 1980s. Following a few years in the Islanders front office, Arbour again stood behind the Islanders bench from 1988 to 1994. But his epitaph by that time had already been written. Indeed, the headline on The New York Times’ Arbour obituary summarized precisely his legacy, “Al Arbour Is Dead at 82; Turned Lowly Islanders into Dynasty in the ’80s.”
Jiggs McDonald, the broadcasting voice of the Islanders for much of Coach Arbour’s era, will serve as the service’s master of ceremonies and many of the stars from the Islanders’ Stanley Cup-winning teams are expected to offer their personal remembrances of Coach Arbour at the Aug. 29 service. Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, and Butch Goring, for instance, have already told the Islanders they’ll be there. Bill Torrey, the Islanders’ general manager when Arbour was the team’s head coach, is also scheduled to speak.
Key figures among the 2016 Islanders, such as Coach Jack Capuano and NHL All-Star and team captain John Tavares, will be in attendance, as well. In fact, the 2015-16 Islanders did something which had not been done since Arbour’s 1992-93 Islanders—win a series in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Even Arbour’s rivals, such as Scotty Bowman, the only NHL head coach to win Stanley Cups with three different teams, is headed to Long Island later this month to pay homage to the Sudbury, Ontario, native. Coach Arbour’s family will be represented by his widow, Claire, and their four children: Janice, Jay, Joann and Julie.
Before Arbour began his storied coaching career, he was an NHL defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the St. Louis Blues. Each of those teams won Stanley Cups while he was there, with the exception of St. Louis.
Arbour died at the age of 82 on Aug. 28, 2015, in Sarasota, FL, after being treated for Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.