The 74-year-old Hall of Famer has accepted an invitation from New York Islanders head coach Ted Nolan to coach his 1,500th regular-season game as an Islander when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Nov. 3.
“I’m very excited about it,” Arbour told The Canadian Press from his cottage in Sudbury, Ont.
Arbour, who guided the Isles to four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to ’83, will sign a one-day contract Nov. 2 and lead the team the following night against the Penguins.
Arbour, who also coached 107 games with the St. Louis Blues, wants a win.
“There’s no question about that,” said Arbour. “I don’t know that much about coaching anymore, I’ve been away from it a long time, but still two points is two points and we certainly want to win this hockey game.”
Nolan felt it was important for Arbour to reach the milestone.
“Every day last season I would walk by that big board outside our locker-room at the Coliseum that lists the franchise’s award winners and milestones,” Nolan said in an Islanders release. “And every day it would kill me when I’d see Coach Arbour made it to 1,499 games.”
So the Isles coach asked GM Garth Snow to check with the league to see if it was possible. They got the green light.
“It’s going to be an amazing night, I can guarantee you that,” said Nolan. “To me, Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman are the two greatest coaches in NHL history.”
Bowman leads all coaches with 2,141 games behind the bench,
Arbour confesses he didn’t actually know he was stuck on 1,499 as an Islander.
“I really didn’t know how many games I had really coached,” Arbour said. “When Ted said that, I was kind of surprised. I said to him, ‘It’s up to you, I don’t want to do anything that will harm the team.’ And he was all for it, so I said, ‘OK, I’m all for it also.”‘
Arbour will make sure Nolan is also on the bench Nov. 3.
“He better be, let me tell you, because I don’t know the players, I don’t know the system or anything,” Arbour said with a laugh. “There’s no question about it, I’ll need a lot of help.”
Arbour’s games coached and victories with the franchise are the most by any coach with one team in NHL history. He’s 739-537-223 all-time in the regular season with the Islanders and 119-79 in the playoffs. He is the second all-time winningest coach in NHL history with 781 career victories, behind only Bowman.
Getting win No. 740 as an Islander won’t be easy against Crosby and company.
“I think they’ve got a couple of wonderkids on that team,” said Arbour. “Let me tell you, they’ve got some good hockey players and they’re going to be a team to be reckoned with for a number of years.”
Arbour said he hoped to get some his former players involved in the night. Already one of his former stars seemed excited.
“Ted Nolan has shown a great deal of respect for the tradition and history of the New York Islanders and Al Arbour by stepping aside and having Al coach his 1,500th game,” Mike Bossy, Arbour’s Hall of Fame right-winger from the dynasty era, said in a statement. “As a former player of Al’s I am looking forward to seeing him adjust his glasses and brush his hair aside one more time.”