Bespectacled Blueliner

1969-70 O-Pee-Chee Al Arbour – card #178

Al Arbour 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee hockey cardOn November 3, 2007, longtime hockey coach Al Arbour came out of retirement to step behind the bench for the New York Islanders for just one more game. This game – a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins – brought his total number of games coached for the Islanders from 1,499 to an even 1,500. And at 75 years of age, Arbour is now the oldest man to have coached in an official NHL game.

Arbour holds another interesting notoriety, though. He is the last NHL player to take to the ice while wearing eyeglasses.

Al Arbour Hockey CardOne trademark of Arbour during his 19-year tenure as Islanders coach were those big round glasses that seemed to cover half of his face. During his years as a pro player – 1953 to 1971 – Arbour also wore his glasses – as evidenced by his 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee hockey card.

As a player, Arbour was a defenseman who was known for his incredible ability to block shots – to sacrifice his body to keep the puck from reaching the net.

Plastic eyeglass lenses were invented in 1962, so these might not have been actual “glass” glasses worn by Arbour. That’s not to say that a plastic lens couldn’t break if your head ended up blocking that 100 mile-an-hour Bobby Hull slap shot.

Then again, those spectacles could probably help protect against a stick to the eye, so they couldn’t be all that bad.

Nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that anyone wore glasses while playing in the NHL. I find it even harder to believe that it was a defenseman. And yet, the proof is in the cards.

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

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