Although Allan Bester spent the majority of his NHL career in Toronto, he ended up in front of the net in Detroit for two seasons, in part because the Red Wings had seen how well the Hamilton, Ontario native had performed against them.
In eight seasons as a Leafs goaltender, Bester’s 12-3-4 record against the Red Wings helped facilitate his eventual move to the Motor City.
“I think they were a little concerned that I might go to Chicago or St. Louis,” said Bester, who was traded to the Wings for a six-round draft pick in March, 1991.
Bester’s best NHL performances came during his 7 ½ seasons in Toronto, including two of seven career shutouts, which came against Detroit.
“My best memories playing with Toronto were playing against Detroit—my record and my goals against average against Detroit was the best of any team,” he said. “I used to love playing in The Joe. It was not a tough away game for me because I just loved playing there.”
Bester began his NHL career with the struggling Leafs in 1983. Splitting time between Toronto and the minor-leagues in his first few seasons, he eventually earned a consistent spot with the parent club in the late 80s.
“It was always in a state of flux, all over the place,” Bester said of the Leafs’ franchise. “No one knew where they stood; it went game to game, week to week. If they’d been a stronger club they may not have brought me in and kept me there. I might have ended up in the minors for a few years and then who knows what would have happened.”
|Allan Bester played four games over two seasons for the Red Wings, spending much of his time with the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings. |
Along with fellow goalie Ken Wregget, Bester helped propel the Leafs to the 1987 playoffs, where they beat St. Louis in the opening round then lost to Detroit.
The following season, Bester was instrumental in helping the Leafs reach the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Riding an eight-game losing streak into the season finale, Bester post a must-win performance against the Wings at Maple Leaf Gardens, guaranteeing the playoff berth.
“Ken Wregget started the game,” Bester said. “We were down 3-0 in the first 10-minutes; I went in and we ended up winning 5-3. Stevie (Yzerman) had a couple breakaways on me. That’s probably one of the best games I’ve had.”
But, for the second year in a row, the Leafs lost to Detroit in the postseason. And two years later, it was a moment in the postseason that decided Bester’s fate.
A long shot by St. Louis forward Sergio Momesso slipped between Bester’s legs in overtime of Game 3 of the 1990 Norris Division semifinals, putting the netminder on bad terms with then-coach Doug Carpenter and helping prompt his trade to Detroit.
“Toronto decided that they were done with me,” Bester said. “I got to play in Detroit in a few games and got to play against Toronto at that. It was good to go back in the Gardens and play against the Leafs.”
Between 1990-92, Bester played only four games with Detroit but found success with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Red Wings, with whom he helped win the ’92 Calder Cup.
“They had the right attitude when it came to building an organization,” Bester said of the Red Wings. “As long as you had a good veteran player and he was not a detriment to the organization they didn’t mind keeping him in the minors to work with the younger players to help them develop a winning attitude.”
For his stellar performance in the 1992 Calder Cup playoffs, Bester was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, given to the most valuable player.
“We won the championship there and the following year I got to work with Chris Osgood all year,” Bester said. “So it was a good organization in the fact that they took care of their veteran players even if they weren’t in the NHL.”