Conor Allen Soaks in Stanley Cup Atmosphere with Rangers
OLD TOWN — There's at least one Chicagoan who's happy the Blackhawks didn't make the Stanley Cup Finals.
That would be New York Rangers defenseman and Chicago native Conor Allen, whose team begins its quest an NHL title Wednesday night in Los Angeles against the Kings.
"I'm glad it's not actually [a Hawks-Rangers final] ... no offense to my hometown," Allen, a Latin School of Chicago graduate and former Old Town resident, said Tuesday night.
It's highly unlikely Allen, 24, will suit up for the Rangers in the Finals. He is a member of New York's "Black Aces," players who are called up from the minor leagues and won't see ice time unless someone gets injured or needs a day off. Allen is with six other black aces who practice on their own before the main team skates.
"Having such a close view of a Stanley Cup team makes really motivates us, as prospects, to keep developing so we can enjoy the same success later down the road," said Allen, who has watched Rangers home games from Madison Square Garden's "Eyebrow" section, which he said is "pretty much in the ceiling of MSG."
"It's a fun way to watch the game because being so high up you can see how all the plays develops during the game. It's also fun to see and feel the crowd," Allen said.
Allen became just the 20th Chicago-born player ever to reach the hockey's biggest stage after he was called up by the Rangers on Dec. 28. He played three games for the Rangers before being sent back down to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League. The Rangers recalled him after the conclusion of the Wolf Pack's regular season.
Unlike many Chicago-born NHL players, who left the city for the suburbs or the state altogether, Allen remained in Old Town until he graduated from high school.
Allen played his freshman year on Latin's hockey team before competing on elite traveling teams. Allen made his mark at Latin during that 2004-05 season, when he was a forward and tallied 14 goals and 26 points, third best on the team. He also helped lead Latin to a state runner-up finish in the postseason.
Allen called the year skating for Latin, which played many of its games at McFetridge Sports Center in Irving Park, "critical" to his development as a player.
Allen signed a contract with the Rangers organization in March 2013 and was called up just before the new year. He had several quality minutes of ice time in three NHL games against Tampa Bay, Florida and Pittsburgh before the reassignment to Hartford.
Allen said since his return to New York, the city has been ga-ga over the Rangers, who have won just one Stanley Cup since 1940.
"It's awesome. All of New York is pulling for the Rangers. It's a really fun thing to be a part of," he said.
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