Stu Cowan: Christmas holidays a busy time for Canadiens' Jake Allen

“You sort of lose that tiredness when you see the kids happy and excited for Christmas and Santa Claus,” goalie says.

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The Christmas holidays can be a hectic period for Canadiens players — especially the ones with children.

The Canadiens are always on the road over Christmas and New Year’s because the Bell Centre is booked every year with other money-making family entertainment. It’s a decision made by Geoff Molson, the owner, president and CEO of the Canadiens and Evenko, the event management company. This year it’s the Cirque du Soleil Crystal show, which opens Thursday night at the Bell Centre and will run until Dec. 31 with 16 shows during that span.

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The Canadiens left town on Sunday for games against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday (a 3-2 overtime win), the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. The Canadiens will fly home immediately after Friday’s game and are scheduled to arrive in Montreal around 2:30 a.m.

The players will enjoy a four-day break at home before flying to Raleigh, N.C., on Dec. 27 and facing the Hurricanes the next night, followed by road games against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 30, the Tampa Bay Lightning on New Year’s Eve and then the Dallas Stars on Jan. 2 before returning home. The Canadiens’ next game at the Bell Centre won’t be until Jan. 4 against the Buffalo Sabres.

“When I came here, guys said we’re always going to be away before and after Christmas,” goalie Jake Allen, who the Canadiens acquired from the St. Louis Blues on Sept. 2, 2020, said during a one-on-one chat after a practice last week in Brossard. “I think we’re one of the only teams, but it is what it is. This year is better than last year.”

Last season, the Canadiens also had a seven-game road trip over Christmas and New Year’s and they played on Dec. 23 in Dallas. Because of weather issues and the time change, they didn’t arrive back in Montreal until around 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve and then flew to Tampa on Dec. 27 to face the Lightning the next night.

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“On (Christmas Eve) the kids are a little antsy, but it’s part of it,” said Allen, who has three daughters, now aged 6, 5 and 1. “You sort of lose that tiredness when you see the kids happy and excited for Christmas and Santa Claus. You just got to embrace those few days and it’s for them, it’s not for you. You’ll find your rest on the road.”

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Allen said his wife, Shannon, takes care of most of the Christmas shopping.

“I get a couple of things that I know the kids want, but she does the majority of the work,” Allen said. “The kids are excited. They made a big list for Santa, so we’ll see what they get.”

Allen’s two oldest children, Lennon and Reagan, were born in St. Louis, meaning they have dual citizenship. Cohen was born last October in Montreal.

Lennon is at an age now where she realizes what her father does for a living and thinks it’s cool.

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“She loves going to the games, she loves being at the rink and in the locker room,” Allen said about Lennon, who will turn 7 on Jan. 6. “I bring her here (to the CN Sports Complex in Brossard) on a lot of Sundays and days off. She likes being part of it. She’s into skating now and she’s going to get her first hockey stick for Christmas, so she’s really starting to understand. She loves to talk about the players. She loves Cole (Caufield) — like every other kid. It’s really cool to see. It makes me appreciate this a lot more.”

Does Lennon want to become a goalie.

“I hope not,” Allen said with a chuckle.

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Apart from the hectic Christmas schedule, Allen also has reason to wonder over the holiday period about his future in Montreal with the Canadiens still carrying three goalies, including Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. The 33-year-old Allen seems the most likely of the three to be dealt before the March 8 NHL trade deadline. Allen has one more season remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of US$3.85 million and could be attractive to a team looking for an experienced goaltender heading into the playoffs — either as a starter or a backup.

“My kids are too young … they don’t know what’s going on,” Allen said when asked about the possibility of being traded and having to uproot his family. “They’re just in love with this hockey team. That’s all they talk about at home. My wife, obviously, understands the situation. We’ve been in the league together long enough and we understand the writing. Things are being said and rumours are being placed. To this point, I personally haven’t heard one thing. I think it’s a lot of speculation. With the three guys, I understand. It makes sense. But I think our job right now is to play for this group and everything will sort itself out eventually. But I signed up to be here and I’m glad I’m still here.

“My kids love it here, too.”

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