The leaves might be falling amidst the rain here in the beginning of November, but it's Arbour Day on Long Island. The coaching icon returns tonight-- albeit for one game, and I couldn't be any more ecstatic. I was too young to remember Al in any way other than the reunions and the classic games. That doesn't matter.
Coach Arbour is going to walk in with his newly signed 1-day contract and command the respect of every player, fan, and Islander employee. The team will undeniably come out with ten times the passion they displayed Thursday night in Mike Sillinger's milestone game. The building will have the electricity and fervor of a playoff game, and I'm proud to call myself one of the 16,234 raging fans that will be at the Coliseum tonight.
Let me just say the Islanders have done an exceptional job connecting the current team to its roots. The constant reminders of Islander pride and tradition have helped this team come together with the goal of hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup, just like their predecessors did. The yearly ceremonies honoring dynasty greats have been a treat to watch. Fans stop what their doing, put their plans on hold and fill the old barn to cheer again for the men who made the early '80s great. Tonight is no different.
The greatest thing about this whole event is that Arbour, who's barely able to stand and walk unassisted after multiple knee surgeries, is taking this game as serious as a game 7. Mr. Arbour has studied tape and has learned his players and their abilities. While Ted Nolan, the man who spearheaded this entire night, will still be on the bench, Arbour is expected to run most of the game himself. That's what makes this milestone special; it won't just be an honorary achievement. Arbour will legitimately coach his 1,500th game for the Islanders.
Tonight will be a blast from the Islanders past, and a shot in the arm for the Islanders present. And I'll be there, hoping to see a new banner that reads "740" raised to the rafters after the game.