Former Philadelphia Flyers coach and general manager Keith Allen passed away today at the age of 90, as reported by NHL.com's Adam Kimelman. While Allen's name and legacy may not be familiar to younger Flyers fans, he was an integral part of the franchise's success. In fact, it's safe to say the Flyers wouldn't be the Flyers without Keith Allen.
Allen was the very first coach in Flyers' history back in 1967 when the franchise entered the NHL. In that initial season, Philadelphia finished first among the six new teams despite the fact that the team had to play home games in Quebec City after the roof of the Spectrum collapsed on March 1, 1968.
The Flyers reached the playoffs both years that Allen was their coach but failed to advance beyond the first round.
In 1969, Allen stepped down as coach and took over as general manager of the team. He would hold that post until 1983. By the time Allen stepped down as GM, he had helped transform the Flyers from an expansion club into one of the most respected and feared teams in hockey.
Allen was the architect of the "Broad Street Bullies," the Flyers team that fought all comers on their way to two Stanley Cup titles and into the hearts of the people of Philadelphia.
The Flyers used physical intimidation as no team ever had in NHL history, and opposing teams literally feared going into the Spectrum to face them. A new disease was introduced to the NHL: the "Philadelphia Flu." Players would often feign illness when they had to travel to the Spectrum. It was uncanny how that disease went away as soon as teams no longer had the Flyers up next on their schedule.
Among the players Allen traded for as GM of the Flyers were Barry Ashbee, Rick MacLeish, Bill Flett, Ross Lonsberry, Andre Dupont and Reggie Leach, all of whom were a major part of the franchise's championship teams.
His biggest deal came in 1973 when Allen reacquired goalie Bernie Parent from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Doug Favell and a first-round draft choice. Parent was the cornerstone of the Flyers' two Stanley Cup-winning teams and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in both 1974 and 1975.
Later on, Allen acquired future Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe in a trade.
His trading prowess earned Allen the nickname, "Keith the Thief."
Meanwhile, Allen drafted many other players who would be key contributors to the Flyers' long-term success like Bill Clement, Bob Kelly, Bill Barber, Tom Bladon, Jimmy Watson, Paul Holmgren, Pete Peeters, Brian Propp, Ken Linseman, Dave Brown, Ron Sutter, Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall.
While Allen was GM, the Flyers won two Stanley Cups and reached the Stanley Cup Final on two other occasions. He also drafted many of the players that were the cornerstone of the franchise's trips to the Stanley Cup Final in 1985 and 1987.
Allen was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders category in 1992.
Flyers' chairman Ed Snider released a statement on Allen's passing, via The HockeyNews.com:
Keith was the first coach in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers and a man for whom I have tremendous respect. In my mind he was and always will be one of the greatest general managers in the history of hockey. ... I never knew of a bad deal he made...I will never forget all of the many memories we shared together.
Many members of the media and former Flyers have been tweeting Allen's praises since his passing.
Former Flyers forward, Rick Tocchet tweeted:
RIP Mr. Keith Allen , a terrific man who helped us young Flyers .— Rick Tocchet (@RealRocket22) February 4, 2014
Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweeted:
I had the honor of spending a few hrs with Keith Allen last year. He was a wonderful man, and a main reason for franchise's early success.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 4, 2014
Bobby Clarke, who served as captain of the Flyers' two Cup-winning teams and later as general manager told Kimelman, "I think Keith never got nearly the credit for what he did that he should have."
Let no one doubt how important Allen was to the Flyers and the NHL.