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Jake Allen’s impact goes beyond the ice

May 24th, 2022 by Marc Dumont @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL — The Puleo family didn’t know what to expect as they prepared a sign ahead of the Canadiens game in St. Louis.

The family matriarch, Meaghan, is a teacher, which meant she had the perfect opportunity to use her supplies and turn her classroom into a workshop. Working with her daughter Alyssa, they created a poster that would lead to one of the best hockey interactions of the season.

The father, Andrew, is a lifelong Blues fan, and used to be a goalie in his youth. He owes many of his best goaltending memories to a current member of the Montreal Canadiens scouting staff and former St. Louis goaltender, Vincent Riendeau.

He used to arrive early at the arena and marvel at the size and strength of the players flying up and down the ice during the pregame warmups.

He wanted to create the same type of experience for his seven-year-old son, who also happens to be his namesake.

Little did Andrew Jr. know he was about to experience a unique moment that would strengthen his passion for the game and his love for Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen.

One shutout was all it took for Andrew Jr. to decide he was going to follow in Allen’s footsteps into goaltending.

“It started during the 2019 Stanley Cup run,” explains Andrew Sr. “Even when Jordan Binnington was playing all the games, Andrew didn’t care. He always wanted to see Jake in net. It started that season, and once the shutout happened, he just fell in love with him.”

Much like other young hockey players, Andrew Jr. was given one opportunity to lace up the pads for his local youth hockey team, as the entire roster rotated to fill the goaltending position.

Most of his teammates hated it, but Andrew Jr. took a liking to it and even went on to become the team’s bonafide starter.

“He played the first game and had the biggest smile on his face,” explained Andrew Sr. “Then he’d go home and pretend he was Allen as he’d mimic his saves. All he wants to do is stop pucks!”

When Andrew Sr. realized the Canadiens were heading to town on December 11, 2021, he knew it was the perfect opportunity for his son to see his hero in person.

“My uncle used to take me to warmups,” explained Andrew Sr. “They’re the best. So we got there early to make sure we had a good spot.”

With the sign in hand, Andrew Jr. made his plea. As the warmup wound down, he grew nervous.

But Allen had seen the sign. As he slowly skated towards the Puleo family with a signed stick in hand, Andrew Jr.’s eyes grew wider.

“I knew Jake saw the sign because he kept looking over,” explained Andrew Sr. “And then once he skated over and tossed the stick over the glass, my son was simply in shock.”

An elated Andrew Jr. slept with his precious gift leaning upon his bed that night. He even begged his father to use the actual stick – which is roughly two feet too long – in his upcoming game.

They decided it would be wiser to simply encase it and quickly order a Canadiens No. 34 jersey to complete the collection and solidify the memory for posterity.

“I think Allen probably gets taken for granted here [In St-Louis],” explained Andrew Sr. “He was always rock solid. And he was the greatest human being and a great guy. He did a lot of great stuff for the community, too.”

Being a goaltender in hockey isn’t easy. The pressure they face to perform at the highest level every night, for a full 60 minutes – and sometimes more – is unlike any other in sports.

But there are small moments that mean more than any save percentage or goals-against average. There are moments that ensure the next generation of fans will develop the type of passion that will carry them through their adult fanhood.

There are moments that bring smiles and unadulterated happiness, which is the most important thing athletes like Allen can offer to the league and its fans.

“He’s a really good goalie,” said Andrew Jr. “And everyone likes him.”

Andrew Jr. doesn’t care about save percentages. He doesn’t worry about statistics.

He watches hockey with a huge smile on his face and hope in his eyes, the purest approach possible to hockey fandom.

It’s a nice reminder that beyond the business of the game, the bonds created between fans and athletes will survive forever.

But there’s still one question that’s yet to be answered distinctly, one that many of hockey’s best minds have struggled to figure out. Who is the best goaltender in hockey history?

Ask a hundred people and they’ll give you a hundred answers.

But when we asked Andrew Jr., after a long pause, he delivered the best answer possible.

“It’s Jake Allen… or me.”

While there’s no doubt it has been a difficult season for many players on the roster, culminating in a sense of renewal due to an uptick in performances once Martin St-Louis was named interim head coach, it’s impossible to ignore the contributions Allen has made in Montreal, not to mention his philanthropic endeavours off the ice.

Allen didn’t play in last year’s playoffs; it was the Carey Price show. But without Allen’s stalwart and steady goaltending throughout the season, the Canadiens would not have qualified for the playoffs in the first place, and would not have gone on one of the most exciting postseason runs in recent memory.

It’s impossible for a goaltender to single-handedly win a game. But whenever Jake Allen took to the ice, he fulfilled his ultimate goal; giving his team a chance to win every night.

Allen’s selfless performances are a testament to the man himself; stoic, reliable, and the epitome of a team-first player. Much like his time in St. Louis, Allen has quietly gone about his work in Montreal and has done everything to help his team win.

His generosity and hard work have led to a nomination for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice.

Allen and his wife Shannon founded Program 34, which seeks to reduce and eliminate barriers in sports caused by poverty, distance, disability and culture. The program has raised almost half a million dollars since its founding in 2016.

The Allens also organized the collection and distribution of 300 blankets for seniors via a project called Santa to a Senior Montreal. In addition, they worked with the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation to encourage physical activity and a healthy lifestyle among underprivileged youth.

To top it off, Jake auctioned off a game-worn mask, which netted over $15,000 for the Children’s Foundation and Program 34.

True to form, Allen and his wife have been quietly yet consistently improving the lives of those around them, both in Montreal and beyond.

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