Welcome Home Al Arbour

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/02/2007 08:12:00 AM | | | | | | | | | | |

Updated 3:00pm
Islanders TV: Has Al Arbour's sixteen minute contract signing and press conference.

Any coverage I can find on this I will add to the bottom of this blog so keep checking back for updates throught the rest of the day.

NYI.com: Has the first of several updates on what the club is planning to honor Al Arbour starting with FSN which will do a special one hour pregame with special highlights and interviews from former players.

NYI.com: Also has Al Arbour's stats as a head coach who is first in games coached and wins with one organization and second in playoff games coached and wins.

NHL.com: Dan Rosen had a feature article Thursday on Al Arbour, how the idea of him coaching again came about and a lot of other things in a must read with comments from Chico Resch and Denis Potvin.

“I got a call from Charles Wang and he talked about it and I said let me think about it,” recalled Arbour, who turned 75 Thursday. “I called Ted Nolan and said they want me to do this, but I didn’t want to cause any problems. He said; ‘Don’t tell the owner, but it’s my idea.’ I said; ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ”

“He called me and said; ‘I don’t know the line combinations,’ ” Nolan said. “So, I talked to him about naming Mike Sillinger’s line (Bryan) Trottier’s line, and calling Mike Comrie’s line (John) Tonelli’s line. So, every time he said Tonelli, Comrie knows he’s going over the boards. We’ll coach in code.”

“Al Arbour is getting ready now,” Denis Potvin, the former Islander great and Hockey Hall of Famer, said last week. “There was never a game he wasn’t ready.

ITV: Has highlights of the game day skate Thursday with Al Arbour watching from the stands. Steve Mears and Chris King report on Arbour watching game tapes and will run practice Friday.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
In the video Arbour is shown the current white home jersey. Could not see if the special patch was on it but going by that I'm guessing we will not see the classic white home jersey Saturday, I could be wrong.

NHL.com: Darryl Haberman had this excellent article from 5/23/2001 on Al Arbour.

"We had a group of character players, character people," Arbour recalled. "They cared very much about each other and were very professional about how they approached the game. They would show up to the rink, go to the dressing room and prepare themselves. Once they got on the ice, they would help each other out, make sacrifices for each other, and nobody wanted to let the other guy down. I think that was the secret right there."

An old article from Islanders-Sound Tigers Mailing List:
1974-75: From Crawling To Running
A Comeback For the Ages

The Isles drew the Penguins as their quarterfinal opponent.
Pittsburgh was an offensive powerhouse, with six 20 goal scorers. The
first two games were in Pittsburgh, where the Isles had never won and
where the Pens had lost only five times all season. When reporters
told Arbour that the Pens were favored to win the series, he
replied "We were underdogs against the Rangers too. Odds mean nothing
in the playoffs."

Denis Potvin suffered a pulled muscle in the opener, and the
Islanders, still recovering from the emotional high of the Ranger
series, lost 5-4. Potvin returned for the second game, but wasn't his
normal self, and the Pens skated away with a 3-1 win.

The series moved back to Nassau Coliseum with the Islanders desperate
to get back into it. Arbour put together a line of Andre St. Laurent,
Bobby Nystrom and Garry Howatt (the "buzz-saw line") against the Pens
top line of Syl Apps Jr., Andre Pronovost and Lowell MacDonald. It
didn't work. Each of the Pens' top three scored a goal, and despite
the Isles unleashing 47 shots on Penguins goalie Gary Inness, the
Pens won 6-4 to take a three games to none lead. Potvin was hurting,
and Nystrom was slumping, having yet to score in six playoff games
after scoring 27 during the season.

Even with the big lead, the Pens were careful to respect their
opponent. "Those Islanders are like a disease you can't get rid of.
Most clubs, you get ahead of them 3-0 and they start making
reservations to get out of town," said Bob Kelly of the
Penguins. "But not the Islanders, they keep clawing and scratching."

"For three games, it looked like we were just happy to have beaten
the Rangers," said Potvin. "We felt like we'd accomplished everything
right there, it was our Stanley Cup."

The team faced an uphill climb. Only one team in the history of
professional sports had come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best of
seven series, the 1942 Maple Leafs.

One of Arbour's most famous speeches came after game three. "Al had
been having a lot of problems with his back, but he showed up for
games and practices, which showed us a lot," said Parise. Arbour had
a slipped disc, and was in and out of the hospital during the
Pittsburgh series. "We had a practice after the third game, and right
before we went on the ice, he called all of us around and made this

"Men," Arbour said, "I have to apologize to you for not being able to
coach you in the manner that I'd like. As you know, the back has been
giving me a lot of problems and I feel as though I owe you an apology
for not doing more for you all."

The players were stunned that their coach was apologizing for them
being down three games. If they were stunned at that, they were
floored at his next comments, as reported by J.P. Parise.

"He said, 'If there's anyone here who doesn't feel we can come back
and beat these guys, get off the ice immediately.' He said it with so
much conviction, it showed how much he believed in us. He made us see
that by concentrating on a shift at a time and not looking three
games ahead, it wasn't insurmountable. It worked."

"Who said we can't do it?" asked Westfall.

Chico Resch was back in net for game four, and the Isles finally got
into the win column with a 3-1 victory. Resch made 27 saves in the
game. But the Isles had to go through Denver for the win -- John
Denver. A concert by the popular singer had been scheduled for the
Coliseum but NBC, which was televising playoff games, wanted to show
the Penguins-Islanders contest. Denver was a hockey fan and
rescheduled the show, even though it was a sellout.

"We were looking to Philadelphia and forgot to beat the Islanders
today," said Penguin defenseman Dave Burrows. "We'll get them back

Torrey tried to change the team's luck any way he could. They flew on
a different airline to Pittsburgh and stayed in a different hotel. "I
was going to do whatever it took," the GM said.

Arbour stuck with Resch and the Isles won game five 4-2, with the
insurance goal coming on a 200 foot shot into an empty net by Drouin.
Resch made 36 saves in the team's first ever win at the Igloo in

"You could see everything turning," said Westfall. "They weren't
playing with the air that they were the team to beat. We weren't
thinking like a beaten team. We just kept saying, 'Let's keep trying
and don't change a thing.'"

The team flew back to LaGuardia and took a bus to the Coliseum. As
the team drove down the LIE, Hawley Chester, the publicity director,
spotted yellow forsythia blooming on the shoulders of the parkway,
the first sign of spring. "Look at that. The forsythia are blooming,"
he said. "Did you ever think this team would be playing hockey when
the forsythia bloomed?"

In game six, Gary Howatt scored twice, Resch was again solid, and the
Islanders evened the series at three with a 4-1 win. Resch stopped 31
shots, and got help from his goalposts as the Pens clanged the iron
not once, not twice, but three times. Ron Schock and Pierre Larouche
hit the posts just seconds apart during one sequence, leading Chico
to give the iron bar a little kiss, which delighted the crowd. Two of
the Islander goals were empty netters.

Penguins center Syl Apps' father had played for the 1942 Maple Leafs.
After game six, he was sitting in the locker room shaking his head in
disbelief. "I've never seen so many posts. Resch doesn't even bother
to get in the way of some of those shots. He lets the posts do the
work for him."

Before game seven, Pens coach Marc Boileau ordered Inness and backup
goalie Bob Johnson out of the nets during practice so the Pens could
shoot at empty nets. "Resch has them psyched out, eating from his
hands," said the coach. "We averaged more than four goals a game all
year but Resch has given us only four goals in three games. No goalie
should do that to us."

All of the pressure was on the Penguins now. The goaltending duel was
Resch vs. Inness, and they didn't disappoint. The game was scoreless
for two periods, with both goalies spectacular.

There were several fights early on, with Gillies taking on Bob
Paradise, and Lewis dueling with Bob Kelly, one of the top fighters
in the league. Apps hit the goalpost in the first period at least
once more. Pronovost hit the other post in the second, and Resch made
amazing stops against Larouche and Apps. The Pens had to be wondering
if they would ever score again.

Finally, with 5:18 to play, and the game headed towards sudden death,
Bert Marshall made a series-deciding decision.

"Bert went down the boards and took the puck away from a Penguin,"
remembers Westfall. "It wasn't where you'd expect to see Bert
Marshall. I was starting out of the zone when I saw what happened and
I stopped and headed for the net, yelling 'Bert! Bert!' all the way.
He shot it to me and I backhanded it into the corner of the net."

Westfall beat Inness on the backhander. "What could I do?" asked the
Penguins netminder. "He kept moving in from the side. I stayed as
long as I could, then I had to move with him. The instant I did, he
put it past me. Westfall's an old pro, he never panicked."

After Westfall's goal, the Islanders could have relied on Resch, but
for the final five minutes, they didn't allow a shot.

When the final buzzer sounded, Resch went into a little dance he
later called the "Chico Cha-Cha."

"Everybody was so proud of the fact that we didn't quit," said
Gillies. "We had enough pride and character to keep plugging to win
four straight."

The Isles had joined the '42 Leafs in the history books.

Updated 12pm:
NYI.com Prior to the game, there will be a ceremonial opening faceoff featuring two very important people in Arbour's legendary hockey career. Immediately after the game, Arbour will be joined on the Coliseum ice by his wife Claire, the Arbour family, Ted Nolan, the 2007-08 Islanders and several of Al's former players as the franchise raises a new banner celebrating his 1,500th game as the head coach of the Islanders.

Updated 2pm:
Usatoday.com: Kevin Allen has a feature article on Al Arbour Friday.

Updated 5pm:
Newsday: Mark Herrmann had three blog updates today on former Islander Ken Belanger about his former coach, a second on the veteran hockey media turnout for the press conference and a third on Sean Bergenheim out Saturday due to a reported upper body injury even though he practiced today. He had no comment on why he will not play and a replacement will be called up from the Sound Tigers for Saturday's game.