Friday, September 30, 2005

A class act moves on

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that longtime Ottawa Senator Shaun Van Allen will be a part of the Sens broadcast team this season.

Van Allen, who did the color commentary on last night’s radio broadcast, will be the co-host of the post-game show with Steve Lloyd and will occasionally fill in in the booth when Dean Brown moves over to do TV and Gord Wilson becomes the play-by-play man.

Van Allen spent six seasons in Ottawa, over two stints, and was one of the most popular Sens, both in the community and in the locker room. Though he mostly served in a checking role as the fourth line center, Van Allen was a major contributor to this teams success. He scored one of the biggest goals in team history with the overtime winner in game one of the 2003 Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey. I believe it ended up being his only career playoff goal, which might make one think he wasn’t a good post-season performer. That wasn’t the case. He didn’t make his impact felt on the score sheet, true, but he was always working hard killing penalties and checking, a task that doesn’t get a lot of fan fare but is absolutely necessary to win at any level.

His first run with Ottawa was interrupted when he was signed away as a free agent by Dallas in the 2000 offseason, but after a short time there and then Montreal, he came back to Ottawa for the 2002-03 season, largely because of his relationship with Jacques Martin, who loved Van Allen’s work ethic and leadership. That year, at 35 and considered washed up by a lot of the league, he put up 32 points, his second best season ever and best in nine seasons, only one point short of his 33 points as a rookie with Anaheim in 1993-94. Despite not being on the top lines, he also was able to score three game winners that year.

Perhaps father time caught up to him, because Van Allen struggled last season, with only 12 points. He ended up being a healthy scratch in the playoffs, but still busted his ass in practice and was a great motivator in the room. One of the images I have of Van Allen is him, playoff beard in tact, coming to the bench to celebrate with the team after Mike Fisher scored in overtime of game six against the Leafs to force that disastrous seventh game. He looked more excited about the win than most of the guys who actually played that game. A lot of veterans might’ve sulked and pouted about not being in the line-up, but you could see that Van Allen happy to play whatever role the team asked.

I wasn’t surprised to see that he wouldn’t be coming back to Ottawa this year. After all, he was a Jacques Martin guy, and it’s pretty clear this organization is trying to go in a completely new direction. I had hoped some other team might take a flier on Van Allen, but alas, his career came to a quiet end.

As much as he accomplished on the ice, perhaps Van Allen’s greatest contribution in Ottawa was the work he did with local charities, and specifically, the fight against autism. Van Allen, who’s own son is autistic, did a ton of work with the Children At Risk charity, the Ottawa area’s largest service provider for kids with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders.

While I’m sure there will be a learning curve for Van Allen on the mic, if he applies himself to that craft with the same tireless work ethic he did his on ice game and his charity work, I’m sure he’ll be a natural in no time. I know I’ll be listening.

1 Comments:

At 9:54 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Yeah - I heard that on the post-game show last night. I'm glad that Vanners is sticking around town.

 

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