by Kevin Boryczki and Adam Kaufman || AHL On The Beat Archive
For many kids growing up, their dream is to someday be a professional athlete. For those who have had a chance to play pro, most have had to travel across the country or across borders to make that dream a reality, often leaving family and friends behind.
For Providence Bruins defenseman Bobby Allen, well, for a while he hardly had to drive further than an hour or two from the bedroom he grew up in.
For the past few seasons there has been “local” talent on the P-Bruins. Last season, Massachusetts natives Chris Dyment, Eric Healey and Eric Nickulas skated for Providence. During the 2004-05 season, Keith Aucoin and David Gove donned the spoked “P”.
This season, Allen, of Hull, Mass., is the only New England native on the P-Bruins roster and he is thrilled to return to the franchise that originally drafted him in the second round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
Allen began his hockey career as a freshman at Boston College, during which time he knew that on weeks there were no hockey games, a home-cooked meal was only a few miles to travel.
“Just to have my family around was such a huge support system,” said Allen. “They all loved to go to the games and watch me play so it was nice it was such a close ride.”
After Allen had a stellar freshman season for the Eagles, National Hockey League scouts did not waste any time in deciding he was to be a draft pick in 1998.
Destiny could have taken the blueliner anywhere but when the proverbial ping-pong ball stopped on the 52nd pick, Allen’s name was called by the team he had spent his entire life rooting for: Boston.
“It was so exciting,” recalled Allen. “To be picked by your hometown team, it’s any kid’s dream come true.”
And while he knew his career would not begin in Boston, its American Hockey League franchise, the Providence Bruins, was only a quick 45-minute drive south, allowing his friends and family to watch him play during his rookie season.
“When I was younger, we came to Providence games so this was a thrill getting to play for a team I rooted for when I was a kid,” remembered Allen. “Then, reaching the pro game, I was just happy everyone could make the short trip to watch me start to develop in the league.”
The dream quickly came to a crashing halt, though, when on Mar. 19, 2002, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Sean Brown. For the first time in his career he would be moving away from home and the northeast. And not just a long road trip away, but two time zones west to Edmonton.
The one saving grace was that the Oilers’ AHL affiliate was in Hamilton, Ont., only an eight-hour drive.
“The trade was more of a shock than anything,” said Allen. “It hit me hard and I grew up really quick right then. I learned this is a business and you have to be ready to go anywhere at any time.”
Allen remained in the Edmonton organization for two seasons before signing with the New Jersey Devils and playing even closer in Albany, then their AHL affiliate. After spending the past two seasons with the River Rats, Allen finally returned home to New England, signing this past off-season with the Bruins.
Now in his sixth pro season, Allen couldn’t think of a better place to be … other than the TD Banknorth Garden wearing a Boston sweater.
“The chance to play for Boston…” Allen said at the start of the 2006-07 regular season. “Pinch me.”
No need. Earlier this week, reality smiled upon Bobby Allen – the defenseman got the call to Boston. With one game of NHL experience under his belt, spent with Edmonton against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 31, 2002, Allen made his Boston debut on Wednesday night at Buffalo, wearing the number 38 and skating 24 shifts for just over 14 minutes of action, along with a plus-one rating.
On Thursday, he suited up for his first game at the TD Banknorth Garden against Pittsburgh, with friends and family in attendance, taking the ice another 24 times and playing nearly a third of the game.
“I don’t think I’ve come down from getting the call-up,” Allen told the New England Sports Network last night following Boston’s 5-4 shootout win. “I watched every game when I was a kid and it’s surreal to be in that locker room with all those great players.
“I’m still such a fan and to go out there and skate on the Garden ice is a huge thrill. It’s still so exciting. I felt like time was ticking down on me since I’m 28 and not really considered a prospect anymore. But the NHL was always the dream and gave me something to work for. It’s the thrill of a lifetime for me.”