The Anaheim Ducks defenceman Bryan Allen (centre) during practice for NHL game versus the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Thursday, January 17, 2013.
Photograph by: Les Bazso, PNG
VANCOUVER - As he arrived in Vancouver on Thursday with his new Anaheim Duck teammates, the memories all came flooding back for Bryan Allen.
The mountains, the ocean, Stanley Park, Marc Crawford screaming from behind the bench. . .the playoffs.
That's really what Allen misses most about Vancouver: making the playoffs. He hasn't been there since.
"Especially after not experiencing them anywhere else," Allen said. "It has been a long time and it's something I really haven't forgotten."
The Ducks, who open the season Saturday night against the Canucks at Rogers Arena, are Allen's third team since the trade that rocked his world on June 23, 2006.
Allen, along with Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld, was part of the blockbuster deal that sent him to Florida and brought Roberto Luongo to the Canucks.
"Shocked," Allen said of the trade. "I spent my time in the minors and worked my way up and I was always told you are part of the future. . .we had such a good team and good regular seasons and not great playoffs. You knew that changes were coming. I was a little naive to the fact it's a business and things happen and nobody is really untradeable."
It's more than a little hard to believe that it has almost been 15 years since the Canucks selected Allen fourth overall in the 1998 draft. The team was patient with the Kingston, Ont., native as he finished his junior career with the Oshawa Generals and then developed in the minors with the Manitoba Moose.
Allen was to be a big part of the Canucks' future and there were times he thought he'd be a Canuck for life.
"Speaking for myself, the first time you are traded it's a bit of a shock, especially after being there for four or five years. You think maybe you are going to spend your whole career there. But it happens and it worked out well for me. I have no regrets, no wishing it went a different way. I think I have had fun, had a good career and hopefully there wil be a few more playoffs in the future."
After nearly five years in Florida, Allen was dealt at the 2011 trade deadline to Carolina, where he played all 82 games last season for the Hurricanes. He became a free agent this past summer and when the Ducks came calling it didn't take Allen long to agree to terms. He signed a three-year deal worth $3.5 million a season.
"It kind of just fell into place," Allen said. "It happened quick."
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, who saw lots of Allen in his time as coach of the Washington Capitals, is happy to have him.
"He's a defensive defenceman that blocks shots, clears the front of the net and he competes," Boudreau said Thursday. "The one thing I knew when he played in Carolina and Florida is he competes. No matter what the score, he is giving everything he's got. Those defencemen that are big and strong and have got experience and can defend, they are hard to come by."
Now set to begin his 13th pro season, Allen doesn't quite know what to expect other than the fact a lot of things are going to be different.
"I don't even know how to answer that," he said. "I think it's different in everything, new team, 48 games, quick season, back in the Western Conference. There is a lot that's new. But at the end of the day it's the same game."
Allen figures to be paired with youngster Cam Fowler and the Ducks clearly hope opposites attract. Offence is a big part of Fowler's game, while Allen is all about defence.
Allen, 32, is excited about his new team and living in southern California with his wife Lexi and their two children, four-year-old Leyla and 19-month-old Brenner.
There will be plenty of familiar faces on the Canuck side of the ice Saturday night. He played wth the Sedin twins, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows during his time in Vancouver and was a teammate of both Chris Higgins and Keith Ballard in Florida.
But more than anything, it will be the city and the rink that will seem so familiar.
"I spent quite a few years here, not only playing but being in the system and coming to training camp and spending time here in the summer," Allen said. "Vancouver holds a special place for me, for sure."
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