For me, the first thing I’d think of were the glasses.
That’s a weird thing to remember about a man who indisputably owns a spot on the Mount Rushmore of hockey coaching. But before he stepped behind the bench and built a legendary career as the second-winningest coach in league history, Al Arbour was a solid but unspectacular stay-at-home defenseman who bounced between four NHL teams and various minor leagues over an 18-year pro career. He scored 12 goals in 14 NHL seasons, won four Stanley Cups with three different teams, and was eventually appointed the first captain of the expansion St. Louis Blues in 1967. Arbour, who passed away on Friday after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s, was also the last NHL player to play the game while wearing glasses.
Glasses have long been the internationally recognized sign of the non-threatening; one pair was enough to allow even Superman to pass for a mere mortal. But on an NHL rink, wearing glasses somehow made Arbour look like the ultimate badass. How tough do you have to be to step onto the ice looking like that? How few craps do you have to give to walk into a world of flying pucks and fists and elbows, and be so unintimidated that you don’t even bother to remove your specs?