Kevin Allen, an Eastern Michigan University alum (1979), knew from a young age that he was going to be a journalist.
Born in Wayne, Mich., he attended Wayne Memorial High School where his love for journalism really grew. Allen was so intent on achieving his dream that a savvy high school journalism teacher actually created a special class for him. He attended a regular class but was free to pursue his own writing during that time.
Allen was thankful for being in a school district that catered to students who had an aptitude or desire to forge ahead in a specific career.
That willingness to nurture a young student paved the way for Kevin to become a successful and revered sports journalist. Allen received the Lester Patrick Trophy on Dec. 2 at a ceremony held at Detroit’s Motor City Casino. He was the sole recipient of the prestigious award at the event. This was the first time the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Induction had been held in Detroit.
“You don’t set out to win awards in this business you, set out to do the job,” Allen, 57, who has written for USA Today since 1986 said, “So many people who are working for a living don’t enjoy their job as well as I do. So I know that’s an award in itself really…to do something you love.”
The Lester Patrick Trophy was first presented by the New York Rangers in 1966 and has been awarded by the National Hockey League and USA Hockey ever since to honor a recipient’s “outstanding service to hockey in the United States.” This trophy honors the late Lester Patrick who was a player, coach, and general manager for the club.
Players, coaches, referees and executives are eligible to receive the trophy. The winners are chosen by a committee consisting of various officials, including National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman, governor, a representative of the New York Rangers and members of the Hockey Hall of Fame Builder’s section.
Also involved in the selection are the Hockey Hall of Fame Players’ section, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, NHL Broadcasters’ Association and Professional Hockey Writer’s Association. There have been 108 individuals and three teams that have won the Patrick Trophy.
“I have a great sense of pride for seeing Kevin being recognized by his peers and for all of the hard work he has done and all of his compassion – his compassion for this job,” Just proud – very proud,” Allen’s wife, Terri said.
Allen was all set to attend the University of Michigan since he had many friends who were enrolled there. A knowledgeable student teacher in his senior year of high school convinced him it would be better professionally to go to Eastern. She pointed out that Eastern would provide him with a lot of practical experience at a very early age, and that certainly turned out to be the case.
The first story Allen wrote for the Eastern Echo was on the EMU football team in 1974. By junior year, Allen was the managing editor. He also went on to write part-time at the Ypsilanti Press by the time he was 18. That ability to write professionally at such a young age gave his career a huge boost.
“It was really fun to be a journalist at Eastern in the 1970’s,” Allen said. “I think I really benefitted by being on campus at that time period when there was a lot going on and there were a lot of political issues. We were distributed in the city so we were covering the election.”
The turning point in Allen’s career came upon his return to Michigan. His managing editor at the time gave him a choice between covering politics or sports. Allen believed given the choice, he would rather cover a sporting event. He knew he was not going to play Major League Baseball or in the NHL, so he decided to combine his two passions— writing and sports. That was the beginning of what has become a very successful sports journalism career.
Over the course of his career Allen has covered stories for around 600 NHL playoff games, 26 Stanley Cup Finals, seven Olympic Games, in addition to Canada Cups, World Cups and World Championships. He has also written 16 hockey books including “Why is the Stanley Cup in Mario Lemieux’s Pool?” and “Star-Spangled Hockey”, which chronicles the history of hockey in the United States. His latest book, “My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rockstar” written with former Red Wing Darren McCarty was released last week.
“The USA Today experience has been pretty incredible when you figure I’ve been all over the world and covered all the winter games since ‘88 and a couple summer games, I would not do anything over. I would do exactly the same,” Allen said.
Universally respected by hockey executives, coaches and players, he also is widely admired by his peers. He was elected president of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in 2003 and has served in that capacity for the last 10 years.
“He’s just a real pro’s pro,” Detroit News Red Wings beat writer Ted Kulfan said. “As far as reporting, he gets the stories. He digs deep. He interviews a lot. You can tell he’s well- connected. I mean he knows everybody. I always see him at all of the major events and all the big games. It’s just pretty impressive that you see the commissioner and all these other bigwigs talking to Kevin. They gravitate towards Kevin. He just reports in a clear and concise way. I really love his writing. He’s a guy that young reporters definitely learn from, that’s for sure.”
Allen attributes some of the writing skills he has today to his time at Eastern Michigan University. He believes EMU allowed him the hands’ on experience and training to hone his writing skills.
“My biggest accomplishment is the fact that I’ve maintained my relevancy for thirty years in a business that’s sort of changed and eaten up a lot of people,” Allen said. “The fact that I’m still able to do this and still be relevant is my greatest sense of accomplishment.”
The Allen File:
Kevin and his wife Terri have been married for more than 30 thirty years and reside in Ypsilanti. They have three children – two daughters, Kelsey and Erin and son Shane.
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