Interview with Bobby Allen Formerly of The Boston Bruins

Many hockey players and fans who live in New England remember the name Bobby Allen. A local kid (Hull, MA), Allen is among a long line of locals over the years who had the privledge of playing for Jerry York at Boston College, where he won a National Championship in 2001. For a lot of the Division I college players, that’s the crown jewel in their hockey careers. Making it to the NHL is a hard road to hoe. Some do end up with solid careers in competitive and excellent leagues like the AHL, ECHL or over in Europe. A select few, like Bobby Allen, get drafted into the NHL. A subset of those drafted guys get to actually fulfill their dream and play NHL games. Bobby is one of them. While his career was cut short by injury, Bobby tasted the life of an NHL player with the Edmonton Oilers and played his last NHL games in the 2007-08 season as a member of the team he grew up rooting for, the Boston Bruins.

We caught up with Bobby recently and had this chat below. Bobby is now a regular in our stores because his little boy is just starting his career, so we talked about that, dealing with early retirement and the excitement around playing for the local, iconic organizations. Here we go….

During your career, you played for two iconic organizations in New England – Boston College and then in the NHL with the Bruins. Since you are born and raised in Massachusetts, obviously there’s some fond memories there, but is it possible to even put into words how you felt before your first game with each of those teams? Must have been so wild!

We are fortunate to live in a place where great hockey is so prevalent. Like any other kid growing up, I idolized the Bruins, and in this town it seems like you grow up rooting for either BC or BU. I always cheered for maroon and gold. My first games for both teams were very special. It was always a dream to play college hockey – to represent such a historic program like BC was a privilege. My first game with the B’s was just as special. You can’t put into words putting on the Bruins jersey, it was really almost surreal. Being able to play for that organization was one of the greatest thrills of my life.

2.  What do you remember most clearly about your very first NHL game as a member of the Edmonton Oilers?
My first game with the Oilers was a day I’ll never forget. I remember the dressing room in Dallas, taking warm ups, the preparation and my first shift. I was probably gripping the stick a little tighter that day! Even though I didn’t play that much, I’ll always remember that day fondly, as it was the culmination of many years of hard work

3.  After you stopped playing, what kind of adjustment was it for you mentally and/or physically? You always hear about players who do – and don’t –  adjust well to post-career life. How was it for you?

When I had to stop playing because of the lingering back issues that affected me my last year with the Bruins, it was devastating. I still miss playing. That was a very hard thing to wrap my head around. I had been a hockey player my entire life then all of a sudden it was over. So it definitely took me some time to adjust. I was fortunate that my parents always stressed the importance of an education, and that helped me in my transition to the business world. I have been trying to utilize some of the core values that I learned while playing in being successful in my new line of work. It’s an ongoing process but I have welcomed this new chapter in my life.

4. As a gear shop, we have to ask a gear question or two – how picky were you about your gear? Was there one thing specifically that you were really into?
For my hockey gear, I wasn’t really too picky. I did love trying new things. When a rep came by, you can guarantee that I was over there trying something on or using a sample. The one thing I was crazy about was my stick. My curve and more importantly, my lie, had to be perfect or I could notice it. So my sticks were the things I was always tinkering with.

5. Do you still play today? If so, are you still using your old gear from your playing days or do you keep updated?
With my back being what it is, I don’t get to play as often as I’d like. I get out there every now and then and have a blast when I do. I am involved in coaching both youth and high school hockey, so I am on the ice all the time, just not always in full gear. I have the same stuff that I had when I stopped playing, and I don’t see any updates in the future. Though I may need a new pair of skates, don’t tell my wife….

6. What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?
The last thing I laughed really hard at was anything that my two kids (Quinn and Caroline) do. They are all the comedy that I need in my life.

7. What is your favorite hockey memory or most memorable goal?
My favorite hockey memory was a toss up between winning the National Championship at BC and my first home game with the Bruins against Buffalo. I’ll never forget my family waiting for me in the tunnel after the game at the Garden and the looks on my parents faces. That was about the greatest thrill you could have!

8. You mentioned that you have your own child skating now. Talk about how that feels for you!

My son Quinn (4) is starting to play this year. I am so excited that he enjoys it so much. Needless to say, hockey is and has been a huge part of my life, and I look forward to many years of sharing the joy and passion I have for the sport with him. Hopefully he’s a better player than his dad!

We’re pretty sure Quinn is already off to a good start with those bloodlines! Many thanks to Bobby Allen for taking the time to chat with us! Stick around for more interviews, gear reviews and other fun stuff.

 


Interview with Michael Vartan of Alias on ABC

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

Last week we had a quick chat with the Pittsburgh Penguins Pascal Dupuis. The week before it was the first in our recurring series of chats with USHL player Todd Skirving. Today we’re throwing a little bit of a curveball at you.


Michael Vartan is a bigtime Hollywood actor. If you are a male anywhere between the ages of, say, 20-50 years old, you probably watched the show “Alias” because Jennifer Garner used to jump around and look ridiculously sexy while doing so. I will readily admit having a huge crush on her back then. Well, Michael Vartan was the lead actor on Alias, playing Michael Vaughn, Garner’s partner and romantic love interest in the mysterious Government entity of ass-kickers. Since Alias, Vaughn hasn’t rested on his laurels – he’s been on several series, including Big Shots and more recently, playing a doctor on TNT’s “Hawthorne.” Vartan was also in the GREAT movie Columbiana (if you haven’t seen it, SEE IT!).

Vartan is a HUGE hockey fan and a hockey player as well, so we thought it would be interesting to hear from him about his playing background, his love for the game and how an unlikely French-born Hollywood actor found the game of hockey. He promised me that his L.A. Kings would take good care of the Cup before it comes back to Boston next year. I do appreciate that very much. Here he is drinking from the Cup in LA a few weeks ago!

And we’re off…..

1. You have an interesting background in terms of where you grew up – fairly non-traditional hockey markets. How did you get interested in hockey? 
I grew up in Normandy, France – not exactly a hockey hot-bed, but i lived about 30 miles from the team (Rouen Dragons) that won the French league 4 years in a row in the ’90s, so there was a little interest there and when i moved to the U.S., I became obsessed with the sport. I went to my first Kings game when i was 6, they lost to the NorthStars 5-4 in OT – and that was it….hooked for life!

 

2. A lot of hockey fans – and particularly players – only pray at the church of hockey. I’m sure you’re a FAN of other sports, but do you play any other sports?

 

I was scouted by a Paris’s professional soccer team (PSG) when I was 14, I play a lot of tennis and golf, too. Pretty much anything with a ball, puck or net and i’m in.

 

3. Here’s a strange question – do you ever apply anything you’ve learned as a hockey player to your job of acting?
One of the greatest things about our sport is the players attitudes. These kids mostly come from small towns, humble families and take the word ‘team” to levels far beyond any other sport does. I suppose I try and bring a “team” attitude when I work, understanding we all have a job to do, and no one is more or less important than anyone else.

 

4. What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?
When Mike Richards blew up Burrows in the first round… not gonna lie, gave me a little chub.

 

5. Given we’re a gear shop, it’s time for a couple of gear questions. What do you currently use for stick, gloves and helmet?
Easton Stealth RS 100 flex (Doughty pro stock), Easton EQ Pro Gloves, Bauer helmet, don’t remember the model… it’s old.

 

6. What piece of hockey gear are you most picky about? Or do you just play the game without getting too involved with the specifics of gear?
Stick and skates for sure! I switched from a P91 curve to the curve used by Doughty, I have hands of stone so I need all the help i can get! I like a really flat radius, mine is 13 and I usually get 1/2″ hollow or 5/8″ in the summer if the ice is softer. I tried the flat bottom V, didn’t really feel a difference so just went back to normal.

 

7. Given you are a public figure, has anyone ever chirped you on the ice about “taking falls” or anything acting related?
Not that I can remember, i’m not really good enough a player or actor for anyone to care!

 

8. Were you aware of the movie “Goon” or did you try to get involved? 
I saw a preview for “Goon” and immediately wondered why I wasn’t up for one of the parts, turns out I was unavailable because I was shooting “Hawthorne” for TNT so I didn’t get a crack at it…next time.

 

9. What’s your favorite hockey movie?  
I have two. “Slapshot” of course, for the story and characters, it’s a classic! And Miracle, probably the most realistic portrayal of sport i’ve ever seen. Not sure if it’s true or not, but I read that they cast hockey players that could act, as opposed to actors who could play hockey. You apparantly had to have college-level skills to even be considered for the movie. The hockey scenes in that movie are the best, those kids could all really play.

Interview with Pascal Dupuis of The Pittsburgh Penguins

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

As we march through the offseason, here’s another NHL player interview for you. Pascal Dupuis is currently a forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins and rides shotgun alongside none other than Sidney Crosby (when Crosby is healthy). Born in 1979 up in Laval, Quebec, Dupuis is another one of those feel good stories you run across with certain NHL players – he went undrafted, but ended up being signed by the Minnesota WIld and played his first NHL game with the Wild during the 2000-2001 season.

Minnesota’s talent evaluators couldn’t have been happier when he notched 20 goals and 28 assists in his second full season in Minnesota. Dupuis then went on to play for the New York Rangers briefly, the Atlanta Thrashers and then, during the 2007-2008 season, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where his game has flourished and he won a Cup in 2008-2009. This past season (11-12) was his personal best, with 25 goals and 34 assists.

We asked Pascal these five questions…..hope you enjoy them!

1. What is one thing that the general public would never guess about you?

That I used to be a defenseman until midget AAA!
2. Being a gear store, we are well aware that all athletes are different with how they choose their gear – which piece of equipment are you the pickiest about?

Definitely my skates. My summer house up here in Quebec is close to Bauer factory, so I make a couple trips every summer to make sure my skates are all dialed up for the season!

3. Tell us what has changed the most for you regarding hockey equipment since you were a kid?

Sticks for sure! When I broke into the NHL, I was playing with a wood stick! The good ol’ Sherwood PMP was my go to stick back then!

4. During the offseason, are you given a very specific workout program by the team, or is it just basic guidance and it’s up to you to structure the specifics?

I have been working out with the same strength coach for the past 17 years, his name is Stephane Dube and I always use specific training put in place by him.  (ed. note: more on Dube here).

5. Up to now, what is your most memorable goal that you’ve scored as a player?

I would have to say my double overtime goal against Ottawa in game 6 last year,  we were up 3-2 in that series and that goal I scored won the series for us!

Pure Hockey note: here’s the goal:

Thanks to Pascal Dupuis for taking to time to have a quick chat with us! Stay tuned as we interview more professional hockey players during the offseason.


Interview with Todd Skirving of the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

During the offseason, we here at Pure Hockey are still uber-focused on hockey equipment. The season truly never ends for us. While less hockey is certainly being played during the summer months, we are focused entirely on getting ready for the next season; what will we buy? what is the demand for? what changes do we make to the stores or the websites? how will we advertise? We ask oursleves these and a truckload of other questions. But the offseason also allows us to go out and talk to players who are too busy during the season to do so.

Our interview today is with Todd Skirving. He’s not an NHL player or a professional hockey player. Yet. Todd is a 20-year old kid who plays for Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL, one of the elite breeding grounds for the NHL and for NCAA Division 1 schools. How impactful has the USHL been, you ask? Well, a total of 28 USHL players were selected in last year’s 2011 NHL Entry Draft and more than 165 of the USHL’s alumni are currently under NHL contract.

One of our goals with this blog is not only to review hockey product for you, but for you to also gain an understanding of the sacrifice, culture, hard work and yes, fun, that goes into being a hockey player. This is the first of a series of interviews that we’ll have with Todd as we follow up through the offseason and through the course of a USHL hockey season. Todd, in turn, is well spoken, educated and clearly is a person who knows what we wants. We sincerely hope you enjoy the series….here’s part one:

1.  As a 20 year old playing in the USHL, hockey is obviously one of the main priorities in your life and takes up a great deal of time. Now that it’s the offseason, what are some of your hobbies and what do you generally do?

For sure hockey is definitely one of my top priorities all year ’round.  It’s not just a way of living, it’s also like a job.  You have to put continuous time and work into bettering yourself not only as a player, but also a person. I find that the way you carry yourself off the ice leads into how you perform on the ice, whether it is your determination towards general tasks or your tenacity towards wanting it more than the guy beside you.  Now that it’s the offseason, it gives me the chance to improve my skills and strengths and better myself in different assets of my game.  The offseason is also a chance to relax and reflect on the past season.  I encourage all players to get away from the rink and the gym once the season is at an end.  It’s healthy to give the body a rest and let it rejuvenate after a full, gritty season of hockey.  It will only benefit you when you get back after it in the weight room and out on the ice.  Personally, now that we’re midway through summer, I like to get a well-balanced healthy breakfast in me and also a lunch before I head to the gym.  I train in the early afternoon with a few of our local pro and college guys.  It’s nice to train with guys above my level as it pushes me to be the best I can be and also gives me footsteps I can follow.  They’re already at a level where my standards and goals are set for.  I do, however, like to hang with the guys, catch a local baseball game or head out to the lake to do some fishing.  I take the chance to visit with friends and family and let the body and mind recuperate.

 

2.  What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on the ice?

I don’t have too many embarrassing moments, but during my senior year of high school when I was playing for the Thunder Bay Kings (AAA), I broke my stick on a play.  I went to the bench and received a stick from another player, only to find out that it was right handed and not left!  I picked the puck up from the half wall and only then did I realize it. Once I got closer to the net, I just shot a backhander, thinking it would be my best opportunity to make something out of nothing.  As embarrassing as it was, it ended up going in!  Not so much embarrassing I guess, but definitely a funny highlight in my career that I look back on.

 

3.  A lot of hockey players can be wild and adventurous… Is there anything wild and crazy that you have always wanted to do at least once in your lifetime?

Yeah there are a few things I have wanted to do.  I’m not the biggest fan of heights, so you won’t catch me riding around the roller coaster at any Six Flags Parks, but I would however, love to take another ride up Toronto’s CN Tower.  They have recently added the CN Tower Edge walk where you walk around the top brim of the structure while being strapped in by a few belts.  It’s about 356m/ 1,168ft above the ground and about a 30 min walk around, so I’m sure that would be quite the experience and a view from up above!  It would be a huge adrenaline rush for me from doing something like that.  I’m also a big animal fan –  I would like the chance to be around a tiger, which is my favourite animal.  Just to be around one for a bit would be a cool opportunity.  Something else I would like to experience outside of hockey would be to swim with the dolphins.  I have had many friends that have experienced such a thrill, but it’s something I’d love to do and I think it would be a fun getaway and surreal experience.

 

4.  What is one thing that people would never guess about you, just from going and watching you play hockey?

There are a few things I could touch on here, but I would have to say my game day routines – or the fact that I am very superstitious.  It’s not even just on game day, but also in the days leading up to a game.  The way I prepare myself is different obviously from what others do, but in my case or even last year the guys saw it as quite superstitious.  It’s less superstition and more of just a routine for me now.  I used to call them superstitions, but I have carried almost all of them with me for the past several years now that it really is becoming a routine and just an everyday thing for me.  I really do have some crazy and funny superstitions.  However, on days where I might forget something, it won’t get to a point where it affects my one ice play.   It is almost like another way to push my game to another level because I feel I have to prove the “superstition” wrong.  So I would have to say I’m a pretty superstitious guy if one didn’t know me.  My team and fans as well could probably agree that it’s almost like another side of me when it comes to something like this!

 

5.  Being a gear store, we are well aware that all athletes are different with how they choose their gear… Which piece of equipment are you the pickiest about when playing and why? 

Growing up over the years it sure has changed in what equipment I am pickiest about.  Starting out, when it didn’t even matter what you wore, to now having sponsors for equipment and having it profiled to meet my (and other athlete’s) needs. I can’t pick just one here so I’d have to go with skates and shoulder pads.  With today’s technology in building skates, players can get their full output and power within their stride.  I like my skates to have a solid and comfortable fit.  I have wide feet, so I go with a wider boot.  I get my blades profiled at an 11’ radius and ¾ skate sharpening, which allows me to stay on top of the ice more and not dig into the ice, thus keeping my stride quick and powerful.  I recently got a pair of the new TotalOne NXG skates.  I went up from the previous TotalOne’s as it is a skate that I can literally put on and go.  I do, however, also get my skates molded so it gives me that nice tight and comfortable fit on my feet.  Another piece of equipment I’m picky about is my shoulder pads.  I like the smaller, tighter fit when it comes to shoulder pads.  I don’t like them bulky and that’s why I wore the Bauer Vapor XXXX shoulder pads this past year.  I have looked into new pads for the upcoming season and I like the new Bauer Nexus shoulder pad model that Bauer is bringing along.  It’s a nice, snug fit that isn’t too bulky at all.  It’s like a blast from the past, too, with the colours and the way it’s designed.  It looks like the new equipment is bringing back styles that were in the older days of hockey and it’s really starting to grow on young athletes and even the pros.

 

6.  We assume you live with a host family during the season – what is it like adjusting to that type of situation?

Yes, I live with a housing family back in Sioux Falls.  Usually for the first day and night it’s a little different from what you have back home.  You get the tour of the house, the rundown of the rules and you usually meet your roommate and siblings for the season.  I can say from experience it has been fantastic.  Other players should be so lucky to get billet parents like mine.  You have to go into it with an open mind and be open and accepting towards the family as they are of you.  They’re doing what they’re doing because they love to take players in and they do a great job at it.  I was fortunate to live with a housing family this past year who always went above and beyond.  They were always there for my roommate and I, cooking us 3 meals a day and much more.  When they had to work overtime or when they wouldn’t be home for dinner, they would have something cooking up for us in the oven when we got home from hockey and workouts.  I think it’s great for hockey players that get a chance to live with a housing family.  I think it gives us the opportunity to learn different values and life lessons that build and shape who we are as people.  It’s a great learning curve for young athletes – they want you to succeed just as much as your real parents do.  They’re only going to assist you along into your journey and future endeavours!