LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. - Al Arbour was laid to rest Monday morning in his adopted hometown of Longboat Key, a tiny strip of paradise along Florida's west coast.
There was no procession of hockey dignitaries to give long speeches at St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, no slide show of the highlights of a Hall of Fame career, and little focus on Arbour's career as an NHL player and Stanley Cup-winning coach of the Islanders.
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That will come later on Long Island, where many of his former players and friends will gather, said Julie Williams, one of his daughters.
On a typically blistering but picture-perfect day, Williams and her two sisters climbed the steps behind a large portrait of Arbour in an Islanders warm-up jersey to share personal and uplifting stories of their father, to the delight of roughly 100 friends and family.
The group included his wife, Claire, former Islanders general manager Bill Torrey and former players Pat LaFontaine, Patrick Flatley, John Tonelli and Darcy Regier.
All of the remembrances centered around Arbour's ability to bring out the best in the players and hockey teams he coached.
"When I was a teenager and got in trouble, I would have all my excuses prepared. I was going to show him," daughter Jo'anne Mazzola said. "He would simply look at me and say, 'Jo'anne, did you do your very best?' Well, that was it. I would start to cry and say, 'I didn't, I'm so sorry.' "
Known for his stoic behind-the-bench demeanor and his glasses, which he also wore as a player, Arbour was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, before some of his grandchildren were born.
"My kids came along after the hockey days, so I explained all the trophies and all the memorabilia and the videos," Williams said. "One video explained how my father never smiled behind the bench. My kids stopped the video and said, 'Grandpa didn't smile?' They did not understand that because they never saw that side of him. All they saw was the funny, laughing grandpa they knew and loved."
Arbour died Friday at the age of 82. His career included 782 victories (second all-time behind Scotty Bowman), four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-83 and 19 straight playoff series wins, a professional sports record.
He took over an expansion team that had won only 12 games in 1972-73.
"He always said to me he got into coaching almost by accident," said Torrey, who hired Arbour for the 1973-74 season. "He hadn't wanted to coach when he got into hockey as a player, never thought he would. But he told me the satisfaction to be responsible for 20 guys every time you play and to get it to work, there's nothing like it. He had a unique ability to take each day knowing that whatever he did last night wasn't necessarily going to work today. He was always thinking of that."
The outpouring from friends, family and fans has been overwhelming, daughter Janice Arbour said.
Recalling her dad's sturdy edges and soft touch, but mostly his ability to leave a lasting impression with those he knew, she said her father was a true example of a quote from Maya Angelou:
"People may not remember what you said, people may not remember what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel."