THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS' move from Long Island to their new home in Brooklyn starting this season is painful for many of their fans, but it was made even more emotional last week by the death of Al Arbour at age 82. The Hall of Fame coach was a beloved institution behind the team's bench from 1973 to '86 and '88 to '94. In 2007, at 75, he came out of retirement to guide the Isles for one last game, his 1,500th—a league record with a single franchise. (The Islanders won that game, of course.)
Arbour's longevity was as remarkable as his achievements: four straight Stanley Cups (1980--83) and 19 consecutive playoff series victories, neither of which are likely to be matched in the salary-cap era. His 782 career wins (he also coached St. Louis from 1970 to '73) rank second all time behind Scotty Bowman, one of the coaching greats Arbour played for and learned from during 14 seasons as a defenseman with four teams. The last player to wear glasses on the ice, "Radar," as he was nicknamed, was tough and smart, and he played on five Cup-winning teams.
A brilliant tactician and commanding presence, with a warm, engaging side, Arbour really knew his players and how to motivate them. He brought out their best and earned their complete trust. "We never questioned him," says former Islanders forward Butch Goring. "There was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was doing the right thing."
During Arbour's final years many of his old players traveled to Sarasota, Fla., to visit him at the retirement home where he lived as he battled Parkinson's disease and dementia. "What coach commands that kind of respect?" says Goring. "He was such an influence. I've lost a friend."
GEORGE TIEDEMANN FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED