Boston -- For sure, it's not an unusual story. In fact, to many people, it might be downright boring. Blah, blah, blah. Local boy makes good. Blah, blah, blah.
And if Bobby Allen weren't one of the nicest people on the planet (humble, unassuming, hard working, polite, friendly, well spoken) you might just pass on this piece. But, on top of being a pretty good hockey player, he is all of those things. And he is a local guy, and he is a former Boston College Eagle, and he is a Bruin, so don’t click elsewhere.
Allen, 28, and a Hull, Massachusetts native, has made great strides toward proving his worth to the Boston Bruins organization almost nine years after Boston drafted him with their second pick (52nd overall) in the 1998 draft. Signed by Boston as a free agent on July 17th of last year, Allen was finally called up to the show before the All-Star break.
"I was catching up with (24's) Jack Bauer, and all of his ordeals, when my Providence coach, Scott Gordon, called," said Allen, a 6'1, 215 pound defenseman. "Obviously, I was very excited."
That must be the understatement of the season. For a hockey-playing Massachusetts kid, there can be no greater honor than wearing the Black & Gold and for Allen, there is no doubt that the January 17th game versus the Buffalo Sabres was a seminal moment -- perhaps the greatest moment in his professional life.
Allen betrayed the emotion in the moment as he described the phone conversation that sent him to the NHL for only the second time.
"I couldn't really believe it at first," said Allen of his promotion. "I was just really happy to get the call."
Allen, who received the Bruins John Carlton Memorial Award in 1996-97 as the top player in Eastern Massachusetts high school hockey, shortly before he graduated from Cushing Academy, has come full circle since matriculating at Boston College in 1997.
"I'm glad to be here," said Allen. "I thrilled to be part of the Bruins and I just want to contribute any way that I can."
To date, Allen has played four games with the Bruins and remains the only skater on the club with a positive (+1) plus/minus rating. He's a good defenseman with an offensive touch and on Saturday (January 27th) he nearly added an assist when he passed to Jeff Hoggan to spring the forward on a breakaway.
Hoggan's bid (and Allen's bid for his first NHL point) was only stopped by a fine play by Ottawa netminder Ray Emery.
But it's no surprise that Allen is beginning to make an impact in Boston as Allen has contributed everywhere he played -- but nowhere more than he did on the Heights of Chestnut Hill.
He played four seasons of college hockey at BC earning a 25-85-110 line in 167 career contests. Being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team in 1998 was just the beginning for the young defenseman, who would earn Hockey East Second Team All-Star status in 1999 and First Team All-Star accolades in 2001.
Allen was also named a NCAA East First Team All-American while helping Boston College to the National Championship in 2001 -- BC's first national title since 1949.
"I'm probably not as offensive as I was in college," said Allen, who was instrumental in the Eagles championship run. "It's obviously a lot harder to score points once you turn pro, but I'm probably a better all around player than I was at BC.
"Other than that, I am pretty much the same, a puck mover who likes to make the first pass out of the zone (and) we'll see how it goes, but hopefully we'll be able to bring some of that up to this level."
Having played in three organizations since, and after 300+ minor league games under his belt, one could forgive Allen if he treated this as just another stop in his life. After all, he played his first NHL game several years ago -- not with the Bruins, but with the Edmonton Oilers, on December 22, 2002.
But Allen will hear none of that.
"Obviously I have a little bit of anxiety," said Allen prior to his first game with the Bruins, in Buffalo. "It's been a long time since I've played at this level and I'm just excited to finally get another chance.
"Especially playing for my hometown team, that I grew up watching, it's something very special, not only for myself but for my family as well…"
Was it hard to play in the minors so long, Bobby?
"There were days when you see other guys getting called up," he said. "It's obviously frustrating.
"But you have to just keep working hard and never stop believing…you hope you get your chance and you have to come to the rink and work hard for something, so that's what I have been doing the last few years -- trying to get another shot and I'm so happy it came."
With the Bruins banged up going into the break, and with Jason York out with an injury, Allen picked the best time to play the best hockey of his career. The Bruins are looking for a steady presence on the blue line, and with veteran defenseman Jason York ailing, Allen has been a welcome addition to the club.
Boston Bruins head coach Dave Lewis has been unequivocal in his praise for the defenseman.
"His performance has been strong," said Lewis after a recent practice. "He's been consistent.
"He's done the things we've asked him to do. He moves the puck well, positionally he's good and he goes in first to get pucks.
"He's willing to take that hit to make a play and that's what you need," he said.