It was a moment years in the making.

It was a moment years in the making.

Philadelphia right-winger Wade Allison, playing his second career NHL game Saturday afternoon, was parked to the left of Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov on a Flyers power play. Philly captain Claude Giroux, sitting on the halfwall behind Allison, found Kevin Hayes with a cross-ice feed and Hayes immediately relayed a pass through Caps defender Brenden Dillon's legs to Allison's stick.

Wade Allison celebrates Saturday after scoring his first NHL goal against the Washington Capitals. (Chris Szagola / The Associated Press)

Wade Allison celebrates Saturday after scoring his first NHL goal against the Washington Capitals. (Chris Szagola / The Associated Press)

He was all alone, unimpeded.

The ensuing one-timer, delivered with violent force, thudded into an empty cage to signal the 23-year-old Allison, eldest of three farm kids born to Barb and Kent Allison of Myrtle, Man., had officially arrived in the big time.

"I shoot to score," said a laughing Allison earlier this week by telephone. "I was doing anything I could to not miss the net and send it in as hard as possible.

Watching several hundred miles away, his old college coach was thinking he had seen this before.

"The goal he scored, that's kind of a Wade goal," said Andy Murray, the long-time head coach of the Western Michigan University Broncos. "Wade wouldn't get that pass on the empty net and just casually put it in the net. He's going to put it through the net, through the back of the boards and all the way back to Manitoba."

Two days earlier, when Allison’s parents, sister, brother and grandparents gathered at the farm to watch his first career game when the Flyers faced the Pittsburgh Penguins, they were witnessing the culmination of years of struggle.

Wade, a second-round pick of the Flyers in the 2016 draft, had persevered through a series of injury setbacks during his college career that cast doubt on his professional future.

A torn ACL in his right knee as a sophomore derailed what had been a Hobey Baker calibre season, an ankle/Achilles problem cut short his junior campaign and a separated shoulder limited him as a senior. In between, his hard-driving style added various bumps and bruises to the list.

"Sometimes those ACL surgeries take longer than normal and even in the first year after you've had the surgery you don't feel totally right," said Murray. "That's kind of the way it was with him and then you get a couple of concussions during that time frame as well because he plays hard. So he struggled with injuries. Then there were phases when he was healthy with us he was a dominant, dominant player."

Even Allison's pro debut was put off by injury.

During off-ice testing at Flyers training camp in January, pain flared in an Achilles and a surgical cleanup was prescribed. When he finally returned to the ice, this time in March with the club's AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley, it was vintage Allison playing a prototypical power forward's game.

A strong skater willing to do the dirty work in the corners, the 6-2, 205-pounder also displayed an overpowering shot, scoring four goals and nine points in eight AHL games.

"It kind of sucks when... you train for eight months hard every day and ramp things up and as soon as it comes time to go, you have to set yourself back," said Allison.

"That's part of life, that's part of the game — I mean, injuries happen all the time. You have to control what you can control and take care of what you need to and give yourself the best opportunity to be successful. Besides starting the season two months late, everything else has been really cool this year."

Before Thursday's first game, Barb Allison couldn't help but remember all the injury rehab her son had done in the previous four seasons.

"I was quite nervous before the game," said Barb. "In my own head, I was thinking I just want this game over. Just so that I know he's gonna be OK."

While the pandemic prevented his parents from attending Wade's NHL debut in person, Kent was thrilled to watch his first three NHL games on TV (although it should be noted Kent missed seeing Wade's first goal live because he was in another part of the house trying to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment).

"You're proud of all your kids, but yeah, he's worked real hard for this," said Kent. "He battled some injuries so we're extremely proud of him. Happy for him, too."

Kent Allison said Wade's grandfather, 85-year-old John Allison, probably got the biggest thrill out of watching Wade play his first game.

"Dad's house is 200 feet over from me and Wade was the first grandchild," explained Kent. "Dad's had a lot to do with (Wade's career). He used to be out on the ice — I had a rink here — with a couple of pillows taped to his knees and a broom and playing goal for him (when he was young)."

Allison has a growing fan base. His rugged, smashmouth game was eagerly anticipated in Philadelphia before he ever played an NHL shift and with the Flyers in the middle of a non-playoff season, he's quickly gained favour with the city's fans. He took regular shifts on a line with centre Nolan Patrick in his first game and skated on a line with Giroux in subsequent games.

Regular duty on the second unit of the power play came as a nice bonus.

"So far they think they seem to like me," said Allison of Flyers fans. "It's very blue-collar city, they enjoy their hard work and that's what I pride myself on so hopefully it's gonna be a good match. Hopefully I can continue to work hard and do well to earn myself a full-time spot here."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

   Read full biography