Everyone knew all about three of the significant career milestones Senators are to hit early this season — the 1,000-point plateau that awaits Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev, the 1,000-game mark Sergei Gonchar will reach Oct. 26 at Scotiabank Place — but ever so quietly those were to be preceded by a fourth involving one of the key individuals who work behind the scenes.
In his 1,499th professional game, Scott Allegrino probably had a rare mention on a TV broadcast when Robin Lehner became the youngest Swedish to tend goal in an NHL game. Lehner was called upon to start the third period Saturday in Montreal when starter Brian Elliott’s skate broke as was heading out of the dressing room.
Equipment malfunction shines a light on the equipment manager. Even if in this case, Allegrino’s hands were tied.
“I was like, oh please ... although there was nothing that could be done,” Allegrino, who had fortunately brought another pair for Elliott on the road trip, said a couple of days later. “The sole just ripped right of his skate, so there was no way to fix it. It wasn’t the skate, the cowling or the blade. It was the boot itself. The sole was rotting and it just came right through.”
History will show that Lehner’s debut lasted only 4:42 because Elliott was so fast peeling off his gear, changing his skates and getting dressed again.
“He actually got back quicker than I would have thought,” said Allegrino, who after toiling in the minors for years is in his fifth season with the Senators. “It’s a lot of stuff to do.”
Meanwhile, Allegrino worked game No. 1,500 without incident Monday in Pittsburgh. Atop the games worked of active equipment mangers sits Buffalo’s legendary Rip Simonick, a 60-year-old who joined the Sabres in 1969. Thrashers equipment manager Bobby Stewart has been in the NHL since 1973.
Does Allegrino, who recently celebrated his 40th birthday, plan on challenging their longevity records?
“I don’t know,” the Binghamton, N.Y., native said with a laugh. “It just depends. I think about that often, actually.
“It’s been a long road to 1,500. I’ll just see how things go. I still enjoy it. I’m still happy to go to the rink pretty much every day.”
Allegrino clearly remembers his first pro game. He was with the East Coast Hockey League’s Wheeling Nailers, as both the medical and equipment guy, and the game was in Richmond, Va. There was the “line brawl” that afterward had him calling his mother and telling her he wasn’t sure he chose the right career path.
And there was his baptism by fire.
“One of our top players came off the ice and said ‘I think I broke my finger,’ ” recalled Allegrino. “He took his glove off, and his finger was pointing in a backwards direction, toward his chest.
“I didn’t think it was broken. I had taken a couple of courses that were sort of thrown at me, so I just grabbed his finger, I heard a little pop and it went back into joint. Made me look like I knew what I was doing. He was like: ‘Wow, it feels awesome.’ I was as surprised as he was.
“I’ll never forget it. After the game on the bus I told him, it was pretty lucky for me to take care of it that way.”
It’s a lot easier working in the NHL. Allegrino has an assistant in Chris Cook. He doesn’t have to worry about medical stuff, which is handled by athletic therapist Gerry Townend and assistant therapist Domenic Nicoletta. Also helping take care of the players needs is massage therapist Shawn Markwick.
Also, the hotels are a lot nicer, and the chartered flights beat the 12-hour bus rides.
“There are so many more avenues,” Allegrino said of acquiring supplies. “Everything gets to you so much quicker.
“The hard times are in the minors, We still work long days, but it’s a lot easier here for sure.”
Allegrino’s first NHL game was in Toronto.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “I started right out of high school. You do, as you progress through the leagues, most everyone’s goal is to make it to the NHL. The first game I worked in the NHL was almost like a relief. I worked to the point where I reached my goal.
“I can honestly say it was fulfilling.”