Keith Allen celebrates the Flyers’ first-place finish at end of 1967-68 season. He was the expansion team’s first coach, later built a Stanley Cup-winning team as general manager.
Courtney Keith (Bingo) Allen
Born: August 21, 1923 (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)
Died: February 4, 2014 (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania)
Member: Hockey Hall of Fame
Keith Allen was the architect behind the Broad Street Bullies, a fearsome collection of goons, scofflaws and ne’er-do-wells who won two Stanley Cups in the 1970s.
The general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers built a championship team around modest goal scorers, a solid if unspectacular defence, and a brilliant goaltender in Bernie Parent. The team, which won successive Stanley Cups in 1974 and ’75, is also remembered for a supporting case whose role is best captured by such nicknames as Moose Dupont, Don (Big Bird) Seleski, and Dave (the Hammer) Schultz.
The Flyers reached the Cup finals for a third successive year in 1976, only to be defeated by a flashier, more skilled Montreal Canadiens team. The Montreal team, which won four Cups in a row, halted the NHL’s shift towards unapologetic violence as a deliberate tactic, though such teams long thrived in the minor professional leagues and is best remembered through the movie “Slap Shot” and the antics of the comical Hanson Brothers.
Allen’s genius in building the Flyers into the first 1967 expansion team to win the Stanley Cup gained him induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1992.
As a player himself, Allen was a solid (5-foot-10, 190-pound), mostly peaceable defenceman. In 18 seasons as a junior, senior and professional, he incurred just 347 penalty minutes. Schultz, his Flyers enforcer, was punished more than that in a single season.
So astute was Allen as a trader and an evaluator of talent, he was known as “Keith the Thief.”
Born in Saskatoon, Sask., Courtney Keith Allen played junior hockey for the hometown Quakers in 1940-41. He spent a season with the Washington Eagles of the Eastern Amateur League before turning professional with the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League in 1942-43. He scored a goal and added 14 assists in 55 games with the Bisons.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Canadian navy, playing for naval teams in his hometown when not serving aboard HMCS Nanaimo, a corvette.
After the war, he spent eight seasons in the AHL with the Springfield (Mass.) Indians and the Syracuse (N.Y.) Warriors. He was a late-season call-up to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings in 1953-54, skating in 10 games. He also played in five playoff games, failing to get his name on the scoresheet, but qualifying to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup after Tony Leswick’s overtime goal in Game 7 glanced off Doug Harvey’s glove and into the Montreal goal.
Allen had another call-up to the Red Wings the following season. In 28 career regular-season NHL games, he scored no goals, had four assists, and served eight minutes in penalties.
He closed out his playing career in the Western Hockey League with the Edmonton Flyers, Brandon (Man.) Regals and the Seattle Americans, where he spent a decade as a coach, general manager, bookkeeper and publicist. He won The Sporting News’ first Minor League Executive of the Year Award in 1959-60 for his work with the Totems.
The Flyers hired him in 1966, a year before the expansion team’s first game. He served as the club’s first coach, directing the Flyers to a 31-32-11 record, tops among the six new clubs and good enough for first place in the West Division. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the St. Louis Blues. He also coached the team in their second season.
Allen became general manager on Dec. 22, 1969, holding the position until May 27, 1983. The Fyers compiled a 563-322-194 record for a .612 winning percentage during his tenure. He traded for such players as Rick MacLeish and Reggie Leach, as well as reacquiring Parent. The Flyers showed acumen in draft selections, snagging the likes of Bill Barber, Tom Bladon, Jimmy Watson, Ron Sutter, Pete Peeters, Pelle Lindbergh, and Ron Hextall. He also hired as coach Fred Shero, who was also from Saskatchewan.
In 1988, Allen received the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding contributions to hockey in the United States. He was inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame the following year.
Allen, who died aged 90, ended his time with the Flyers as an executive vice president. He leaves his wife, Joyce; three children; and, four grandchildren.
Keith Allen (left) with the Edmonton Flyers in 1954-55.