Martin Biron is looking forward to putting on the pads again in the Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic game on Sunday in Toronto to help celebrate the 2018 Induction Weekend. He hopes to be back again soon to celebrate a coach who helped him get to, and stay in, the NHL for 15 seasons.
Goaltending coach Francois Allaire retired this summer after more than 32 years in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche.
Biron is one of many former pupils who believes Allaire should be acknowledged for his role as a trailblazer and his undeniable impact on the game.
"He should be in the Hall of Fame because he was at the forefront of it all, working with Patrick [Roy] in Montreal and developing an approach to the game that was completely different from what goaltending was in the 1980s and 1970s, and being able to change and revolutionize the position," Biron said. "That's what the Hall of Fame is for, is to recognize the people that have contributed to the game of hockey in a revolutionary way, and Francois did that."
Allaire pioneered the role of the modern goaltending coach during a career that started in 1984 and included winning the Stanley Cup twice with Roy and the Canadiens in 1986 and 1993 and a third time with Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Ducks in 2007. Allaire's impact goes well beyond popularizing a butterfly system that became the NHL standard during his time with Roy, who won the Vezina Trophy three times under Allaire.
The rise of goaltending in Quebec that began in the 1980s and produced some of the best NHL goalies of a generation happened under the watchful eye of Allaire.
"Frankie was the most important person I've had playing hockey in my whole life," Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers said. "I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for him. He had that much of an effect on me growing up as a young teenager learning to play the position."
Allaire's summer camps had an impact on most of the goalies from Quebec in the NHL at the time, a list that included Mathieu Garon, Patrick Lalime and Manny Fernandez, among others.
"He basically coached all of the French-Canadian goalies at some point," Giguere said. "It would be pretty amazing to see the number of goalies he's touched and to see what kind of careers these guys all had. It's an impressive number. … He had such an incredible influence on me."
Allaire's impact extends to Switzerland, where his annual camps played a role in the rise of NHL goaltenders Jonas Hiller, Martin Gerber and David Aebischer.
Hiller said that outside of Tobias Stephan, who played 11 games with the Dallas Stars in 2007-08 and 2008-09, every Swiss goalie to make the NHL since the mid-1990s had ties to Allaire.
"So no Francois probably no Swiss NHL goalies," Hiller said.
Along with Warren Strelow, who started with the Washington Capitals in 1983 and worked with the New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks before passing away at age 73 in in 2007, Allaire helped open the door for goalie coaches who hadn't played the position in the NHL.
Though the job existed before Allaire and Strelow arrived, it had been primarily former NHL goalies sharing been-there, done-that advice. Allaire brought a more technical approach to the position, and now there are more NHL goalie coaches who didn't play in the League (18) than did (13).
"Frankie gave credibility and showed the importance of a goalie coach," said Mitch Korn, who started with the Buffalo Sabres in 1991 and coached 25 years before moving into a consulting role with the Washington Capitals this season. "It was so hard breaking into the NHL in any capacity having not played in the NHL, and he was able to do that, so I thank Frank for paving the way and opening doors that have given people like myself and others the opportunity."
Allaire's coaching style became a hot-button topic later in his career, especially after his departure from the Maple Leafs in 2012. Critics argued his approach was too rigid, too robotic. Giguere, who was with Toronto at the time, fit some of those stereotypes but points to Allaire's work with Semyon Varlamov of the Avalanche, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2013-14, as an example of the coach's ability to adapt.
Biron didn't fit any of the Allaire stereotypes and said they are miscast.
"I was not a typical Francois Allaire-type goaltender when I grew up," Biron said. "But as I got older and then worked at the goalie school, I realized this is not just a style. Goalies at the time were, 'Oh, you are butterfly, that means you have to go on your knees.' No. His vision was the amount of work and detailed work and skating work and positioning work that goalies need to do to implement a certain style at the end of it. So, if you wanted to be a butterfly goalie and go down on your knees to make a save, great, but everything before -- all the movement, the squareness and all that stuff we are stressing today -- was all being done in the '80s by Frank."
His teachings continue today, a legacy his pupils say warrants a Hall of Fame nod in the builder category.
"It is a no-brainer," Giguere said, "and every goalie that had Frankie will tell you the same."