History

Bill Hunt / The Daily Gleaner – July 18, 2016

Goaltender Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues and Shawn Lean, the vice-president of Office Interiors, pose under Allen’s framed number 34 jersey at a Fredericton restaurant. Lean’s company will sponsor the local bantam major hockey team in town and change the team name to the Office Interiors Bantam Major Blues in recognition of Allen’s status as the number one goaltender with the NHL Blues.

While he’s playing goal for the St. Louis Blues this winter, a little piece of Jake Allen will remain behind in Fredericton.

The Bantam Major team which has long been known as the Fredericton Leon’s Canadiens is changing sponsors and colours.

The team for which Jake’s father Kurt serves as head coach, will be known as the Fredericton Office Interiors Bantam Major Blues.

Shawn Lean, who is the president of Office Interiors and also of EDZA West, which encompasses Fredericton, felt the timing was perfect when Leon’s elected to “go in another direction,” he said.

Rob MacGregor, who also works at Office Interiors as director of business development and is the midget director for EDZA West, pitched the idea of changing the name to the Blues in deference to Jake’s NHL team.

“It’s an honour,” said Jake as he got a look at the logo, a replica of the Blue Note which adorns the St. Louis jersey with Jake’s number 34 in gold in the base of the note.

“I never would have guessed that in a million years. Thanks to Shawn and everybody for thinking of me … it’s a real privilege. It’s very humbling. I’m always trying to give back to Fredericton and this is just the feather in the cap.”

Lean said the other team which currently plays in Canadiens colours, the peewee AAA team in town, will likely change colour when the team’s jerseys are due to be replaced.

“I don’t think it will be this year, but it will likely be next,” said Lean.

Jake recently signed a four-year contract extension with the NHL club and will be the club’s undisputed number one goaltender after the off-season trade of Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames.

While he’s number one in the crease, and the digit is now available, Allen will retain his familiar number 34. That will also be reflected in the Bantam Major team’s crest, which will bear Allen’s number 34 in the bottom of the Blue note.

Lean would like to see the logo emblazoned at centre ice at the York Arena, where the bantam team will play home games this winter.

“It’s my favourite logo now, obviously, and I think the team will wear it well,” said Jake.

Allen wears 34, not because he was drafted 34th overall by the Blues in the 2008 NHL entry draft, but because his original goaltending idol, John Vanbiesbrouck, wore that number for the bulk of his NHL career.

“He was number 34 and I loved it ever since,” he said. “In minor hockey sometimes, you don’t get the number you want, because the jerseys are used and used and used,” he said. “But as soon as i went to the [Quebec Major Junior Hockey League] Fog Devils in Newfoundland, I grabbed it.”

Teams in the Fredericton minor system have borne several nicknames over the years. They were widely known as Red Wings in the era when Danny Grant and the late Buster Harvey played for the Detroit Red Wings. Local minor teams have also been known as the “Express” and the “Canadiens” in deference to the American Hockey League teams which played in the city in the 1980s and 1990s.

“So isn’t it the normal process now that we pay homage to our own local heroes?” said Lean.

Allen fulfils the role admirably, said Lean.

“Jake’s the model … on ice and off the ice,” he said, “In the crazy hockey world we live in, where people are sending their kids off to prep schools and other places to go, Jake played his peewee and his bantam and his midget here and went on. He played some spring and summer hockey, but not much. He did other things. Now he’s back and he’s doing the right things for his community … he’s the model.”

Allen recently played host to a successful charity golf tournament, the Jake Allen Celebrity Classic, which will benefit a number of local charities in town. While the final fund raising total has not been calculated, Allen counts the tourney a success and said planning will begin for the second annual event “in a couple of weeks.”

He said the golfers seemed to enjoy it, and the celebrities who came in to play, including Blues teammates Robbie Fabbri, Joel Edmundson and Robert Bortozo, “had a great time. They really enjoyed it. It went really well.”

The golf tournament is the major initiative of Allen’s newly formed non-profit organization, Program 34.

“It’s basically a way to raise money for different charities,” said Allen. “It’s a way to give back to our area.”

Allen is perhaps Fredericton’s biggest celebrity, but he enjoys the fact that he’s not treated that way.

“It’s great here,” he said. “No one intrudes on your space or your privacy,” he said. “If that was the case, it wouldn’t be too fun to come back. But it’s so low key here and everybody understands. To be honest, no one treats you like a celebrity and that’s why I like it. I don’t ever want to be treated like that. It sort of makes me feel uncomfortable a little bit when I do get treated like that.”

Allen, who turns 26 on August 7, has skated twice this summer, will be on the ice in Moncton Wednesday night and will fit in a couple of fishing trips and some golf with friends before ramping up training next month.

He’ll fly to Wisconsin for a week-long training session with eight other NHL goaltenders – including Elliott, his former Blues teammate – on Aug. 28 and return to town before packing up and heading for St. Louis.

“It’s going to be quick,” he said of his whirlwind summer. “Next thing I know, it’s going to be August. I’ve been busy this summer, but I enjoy being busy. It’s been a good busy. The fishing has been horrific for me, but other than that, it’s been great.”