NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA – The grand foyer of the senior living community was bustling with activity Wednesday afternoon.
Residents were gathering while staff was putting the final touches on the setup. The singer who would entertain the crowd with his velvety voice, crooning along to well-known standards was making last-second adjustments to his sound board.
Then, the family of the honored guest entered, and took their place on the chairs situated at the foot of the main staircase in the foyer.
It was then that the star of the show arrived.
Dressed in his new purple shirt that his wife Joyce got him for the occasion, Keith Allen, the original Flyers coach and general manager of the Broad Street Bullies teams that won the franchise’s two Stanley Cups, entered the room.
The applause was polite, yet loud. The smile grew on his face as he saw his family and friends.
He quickly became situated next to Joyce, as the singer prepared his opening song.
Allen quickly glanced across the room. There, leaning against the wall was one of his former players. They made eye contact. The player winked. Allen smiled again.
“It’s his 90th birthday and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” said Joe Watson. “This man means so much to me. He gave us all a chance in the sport of hockey and we should all be eternally grateful.”
Which is why Watson didn’t mind standing there for 90 minutes listening to Pete Cannella sing his heart out.
It was important that he was there for Allen through the entire ceremony because Allen was there for him so many years ago.
Allen still holds the title of Executive Vice President with the Flyers, an organization with which he has been 47 years.
After serving as the coach for the first four seasons of the team’s existence, Allen became the general manager and served in that position for 14 years.
He earned the nickname “Keith the Thief” for being able to pull off so many savvy trades and having great success in the draft.
Allen was responsible for either drafting or trading for some of the greatest players in Flyers history including Bernie Parent, Bill Barber, Rick MacLeish, Andre Dupont, Reggie Leach, Paul Holmgren, Bob Kelly, Ron Sutter, Ron Hextall, Brian Propp, Pelle Lindbergh, Tim Kerr, Dave Poulin and Mark Howe.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992 under the Builders category, the same category that earned Flyers chairman Ed Snider enshrinement as well as coach Fred Shero, who will be inducted in November.
Allen thoroughly enjoyed his party, including the strawberry shortcake that was lit up for the Happy Birthday celebration, but the highlight of the party came when Allen sang some background vocals to Cannella’s version of “It Had to be You,” one of Allen’s favorite songs.
After the music, Allen posed for pictures with friends and family, and spent some time with Watson.
“It’s good to come out and see him whenever I can,” said Watson, who lives close by. “But today is a special day. I mean 90-years-old. Geez, that’s amazing.”
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