Keith “Bingo” Allen
Philadelphia Flyers, 1969-1983
West Division Title, 1973-1974
Patrick Division Titles, 1974-1977, 1979-1980, 1982-1983
Playoff Appearances: 1971, 1973-1983
Stanley Cup Finals Appearance: 1974-1976, 1980
Stanley Cup Victories: 1974-1975
Philadelphia Flyers executive vice president Keith Allen was present at the creation of the franchise in 1967. He was the team’s first head coach and became its greatest general manager. Along the way he crafted, nurtured, and developed a hockey team that became the scourge of the NHL during the mid-1970s and remained highly competitive throughout most of his illustrious reign as general manager.
Based on my rating system, Keith Allen was the third greatest general manager of the 1970s and the NHL’s first expansion era (1967-1979). (You will learn the names of the top two in the weeks to come). In terms of getting his teams to perform at optimal level he was even better, ranking among the top ten in Average Season Performance.
Allen was born in 1923 in Saskatchewan and was playing junior hockey as a defence-man in Canada and the U.S. during the early years of World War Two. In 1946 he joined the Springfield Indians in the AHL (which was owned by the legendary Eddie Shore). Allen played there for five seasons, forced to endure Shore’s overbearing skinflint style.
He remained in the minors until the end of the 1953/54 season when he played briefly with the Detroit Red Wings who won the 1954 Stanley Cup that season. Allen played five games in the playoffs and got his name etched on the 1954 Stanley Cup.
While playing in Detroit Allen was treated to Jack Adams’ extreme approach to managing a hockey team. (Several years ago I interviewed Allen at his beach home on the Jersey Shore about his playing career. When I asked him who was cheaper with a buck: Eddie Shore or Jack Adams? He snorted in disgust and told me that Shore had everyone beat in that department).
He remained in the Wings farm system before moving out to Seattle in 1956 where he began a lasting relationship with the Seattle Americans (later to become the Seattle Totems) in the Western Hockey League.
Allen was not only the head coach in Seattle for nine seasons he also was the team’s GM, Bookkeeper, and publicist as well. He excelled in Seattle: leading the team to eight playoff appearances, 3 championship finals, and the 1959 WHL championship.
In 1966 Allen was hired by Flyers GM the late Bud Poile to become their first head coach. When expansion took place in 1967, Allen led the Flyers to the Western Division title yet suffered a first round loss in the playoffs to St. Louis. The Flyers failed to repeat as divisional champions but still made the playoffs nonetheless.
In December 1969 Keith Allen caught his big break. Bud Poile stepped aside as general manager and Allen was tapped to replace him.
Bud Poile had already drafted future Flyers stars and legends Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz, and Don Saleski in 1969. Allen augmented their ranks by drafting Bill Clement and Bob Kelly in 1970. More draft gems followed: Bill Barber, Tom Bladon, and Jimmy Watson in 1972; Mel Bridgman and Paul Holmgren in 1975; goalie Pete Peeters in 1977; Behn Wilson and Ken Linseman in 1978; Brian Propp and the late Pelle Lindbergh in 1979; and Ron Sutter in 1982.
But it wasn’t draft picks that made the Flyers into future contenders and Stanley Cup champions. Allen made some shrewd trades too that sweetened the pot.
In 1971 Allen sent Bernie Parent to Toronto for two players. At the time Parent had failed to live up to his potential. The skills were there but his focus was elsewhere. Two years later Allen got Parent back, a new Bernie Parent. The two years he spent in Toronto (rotating with his idol Jacques Plante) and his abortive jumping to the WHA had sobered and matured him. When he returned to Philadelphia, Bernie became the rock upon which the Flyers built their cathedral of ice in the Philadelphia Spectrum.
In 1974 Allen added Reggie Leach who added a lot of heavy artillery to the Flyers offensive arsenal.
From 1972 onwards the Flyers beat, brawled, bullied, and battered their opponents with reckless abandon: winning two Stanley Cups in four tries.
Allen’s genius not only extended to players but to coaches as well. He tapped the late Fred Shero to become head coach of the Flyers in 1971; and Pat Quinn in 1979. Both men entered the elite ranks of NHL coaching fame; both men rank among the top fifty head coaches of all time.
By 1983 he had had enough. Allen stepped aside as Flyers GM and was kicked upstairs to his present position where he remains today—an honored member of the Flyers glorious past.
(My next column will feature former Colorado Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix.)