Al Arbour was remembered yesterday at a memorial service that marked the 1 year reflection on his passing. Family, friends and some of his old players gathered with fans to celebrate his life and career at the Northwell Health Ice Center team practice facility in East Meadow. Islanders’ general manger, Garth Snow announced that the practice rink ice surface would forever be known as the “Al Arbour Rink” in memory of the former and legendary coach. The team will also also have a permanent historical display at the facility dedicated to Al Arbour. The display will include tributary relics and memorabilia to honor the coach’s memory and his contributions to the organization and the NHL.
Al Arbour’s longtime friend and mentor, Scotty Bowman respectfully spoke about Arbour with fondness. Bowman had given Arbour his first NHL coaching position and attributed much of his own success to his friend’s contributions as part of his staff. Bowman, the NHL’s most winningest coach (1,244) said competing against Arbour (3rd at 782) as opposing coaches was the hardest thing he ever had to do.
Jiggs McDonald, Bill Torey, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Bobby Nystrom, Ken Morrow, Butch Goring, Ed Westfall, Pat Lafontaine, Mick Vukota, Tom Fitzgerald, Jean Potvin and Graeme Townsend were among the storied Isles alumni at the ceremony. John Tavares was there with a few of his current Islanders’ team mates and everyone was impacted on the day. “It gives you chills,” John Tavares said. “You can just tell from all the stories… how special of a guy he was, what he meant to this organization and the impact he had on all of them. It’s recognizing the standard and the tradition of the Islanders and what they mean to the community and what a guy like Al Arbour meant to the organization and the community here.” Tavares continued, “You certainly want to carry that on and bring that excellence on and off the ice that he certainly brought.
It’s something Islander’s majority owner, Jon Ledecky (with Scott Malkin since July 1st) spoke of the team’s quest for a 5th Stanley Cup ring and that their progress at the Barclays Center would benefit them for years to come. “We learned a lot of great lessons about Barclays in the first year,” said Ledecky, “We’ve made a lot of progress in the off-season with Brooklyn, in terms of ice quality, in terms of the facility itself, in terms of making sure that the players and their families are welcomed and hosted in the right way.” Ledecky also spoke of the team’s renewed commitment to connect with former players from the dynasty teams of the 1980’s.
It was a day to honor the life of Al Arbour and hopefully find a renewed strength and focus from the stories from his former players and friends. A strength that just might help the new look roster push forward into the 2016-17 season with a fresh perspective on the one goal they all have in mind.
Thank you Mr. Arbour. Thank you for everything.