A (consecutive) four time Stanley Cup winner during the early ’80’s, Al Arbour returns to the Mausoelum bench tonight for his 1500 coaching appearance. The New York Times’ George Vecsey remembers Arbour’s dignified reign with reverential tones.
After coaching in St. Louis, Arbour had to be coaxed into visiting Long Island in 1973, but the pleasant towns along the North Shore persuaded him that a Canadian could survive there. The first exhibition game he coached at the Coliseum was against the team from the big city just to the west.
œWe didn™t have glass behind the bench, and these guys in Rangers sweaters were hitting me in the back of the head, Arbour recalled yesterday, sizzling slightly, 34 years later. œThis was in our building. I had to put glass up after that.
Bill Torrey, the general manager, gave him the long-term talent that is impossible to maintain today in the time of free agency. Arbour was tough on the talented players like Potvin, but kinder to the pluggers like Bob Nystrom.
œI wanted to be Guy Lafleur or Mike Bossy, said Nystrom, who is still affiliated with the Islanders. œAl would talk to me quietly and tell me what he expected. He was a psychologist. We would practice three-on-two endlessly because Al wanted to cut down on our goals allowed. We might not always do it right, but we knew what he wanted.
The Islanders knew how to slip out and have a good time, but they were just far enough from Manhattan that they did not become the wastrel Rangers of the late ™70s. Arbour set a Canadian-suburban tone, respectful of others, and let the players know that he supported the right of female journalists to work inside the clubhouse.
Hopefully, Arbour would be equaly supportive of the right to blog about the game without wearing an Islanders jersey.