From Player to Coach

Andrew Allen of the Buffalo Sabres

Andrew Allen, Goalie Coach for the Buffalo Sabres, didn’t grow up playing video games or aspiring to be a gamer or a YouTube personality. He grew up milking cows on a dairy farm in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, halfway between Ottawa and Montreal along the beautiful Quebec border.

“There was a low spot on the field that froze into a pond every year, so between watching hockey on television and skating at home I became interested and involved in hockey,” says Allen. “I played junior hockey in my hometown and then I received an American scholarship to the University of Vermont,” explains Allen. “I signed with the Florida Panthers out of university.”

For six years Allen played professional hockey in the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League. “I had the best seat in the house,” says Allen. From an early age, Allen was involved in coaching. “When I was in high school, Jacques Martin ran hockey schools around my home town and each summer I would coach for him. That was my first experience with coaching goalies,” says Allen, who believes he would have become a teacher if it had not been for hockey. “I built on the experience of that.” The role came naturally to Allen and he began coaching for the Ottawa University junior hockey team.

“When I stopped playing professional hockey and started coaching I got a chance to work in Japan as a goaltending coach for their National program,” explains Allen, who, at that time, was also working for the government. “Then, I had the opportunity to work for the Chicago Black Hawks,” explains Allen. “As developmental goaltending coach, I prepared all of the goalies outside of the NHL.”

Allen’s credentials speak for themselves as the list of goalies that he has instructed grows. Part of his job is to mentally prepare the players for what many call the toughest positon to play in hockey. “I have prepared many goalies to play at the NHL level. I coached Scott Darling, Antti Raanta who is with the Rangers now, and Carter Hutton who went from Chicago to Nashville when they were in the minors,” says Allen “I helped those guys realize their dream to be in the NHL and now I get to coach them in the top level of the world.” Robin Lehner, goalie for the Buffalo Sabres, was encouraged by his father to take up hockey and ultimately settle into the position of goalie. “My dad put me in goal to try. I really liked the pads and all the gear too,” explains Lehner, who was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2009 and traded to the Buffalo Sabres in June of 2015.

Recently Lehner has made changes in his regime to assist in his preparation for the 2016-2017 NHL season.  “It is important for me to eat well. Because I felt good and was healthy heading into the offseason, I was able to work out hard and make some changes to my lifestyle to help feel better and lose some weight,” states Leher.

Between Lehner and Allen a positive coaching relationship exists and goals for the upcoming season are in full swing. “We are continuing to move less and move smarter during games and practice,” says Lehner. “Andrew is a good teacher and understands what I am trying to accomplish. He is good at preparation and listening to what I have to say around the game and team,” says Lehner. “It’s been really good working with him.”

As a former Ottawa Senator, Lehner is no stranger to rebuilding years. “I have experienced some of the same rebuilding years during my time in Ottawa, so I knew what to expect coming into Buffalo. It isn’t always an easy process, but you have to trust the right things will be done,” says Lehner.

Allen is working diligently to assist Lehner in reaching his goals. “We lost Robin opening night last year. Robin is healthy now and with Andres Nelson who also has a lot of promises, we are excited from a goaltending stand-point,” says Allen. “I just want to be the best player I can to help our team make the playoffs. I want to do everything to make that happen on and off the ice,” says Lehner.

With Allen on the bench, the future is bright between the pipes. “It is a great time to be part of the Buffalo Sabres and what we are now and what we are going to become,” states Allen. “We are a good young team with a good system in place that players know now. We are lucky to be part of the Pegula (owner of the Buffalo Sabres) family.” Allen is proud of his accomplishments and dedication to the sport.

“I have been lucky enough to reach it and work full-time in the NHL. Now the hard work comes of keeping it,” he concludes.

By Jill Tham

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