Patrik Allvin became the first Swedish general manager in NHL history when he was officially announced to the position on Wednesday morning by Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford.
The choice seemed clear-cut at least a week in advance. Allvin, 47, had worked for Rutherford in Pittsburgh with the Penguins as his Director of European Scouting, Director of Amateur Scouting, and briefly as Assistant General Manager.
Allvin worked in the organization for sixteen years and even took over briefly as interim general manager when Rutherford stepped down from the GM position in a surprise move in January of 2021.
The Leksand native interviewed to take over the top job in Pittsburgh permanently but it went to former Philadelphia Flyers player, GM and executive Ron Hextall.
A blessing in disguise for Rutherford and Allvin.
“I not only respect him as a person, but as a great hockey guy,” Rutherford said. “He’s worked in all aspects of hockey operations, he brings a lot of experience, he brings a winning culture to the Vancouver Canucks, by being part of winning three Cups in Pittsburgh.”
Allvin’s first taste of North America came in 1995 when he played as a defenceman for the Atlanta Knights in the old International Hockey League (IHL). His stay was brief, moving down after just three games to the Nashville Knights of the ECHL. The following season he played for the Pensacola (Florida) Ice Pilots of the ECHL and briefly back in the ‘I’ with the Quebec Rafales.
He knew he wanted to stay in the hockey business even before he returned home to Sweden in 1997 to skate for five more seasons. Allvin earned his first hockey operations opportunity almost immediately after playing and it came from North America.
“When I got the opportunity to work as a part time scout for Montreal I thought this was really interesting and really intriguing,” Allvin said. “The more I got to learn about the National Hockey League and the hockey op’s and meeting a lot of good people, it made it easier for me and my family, my wife and two kids, to make the move here in 2018, and with the support from Jim it was an easy transition.”
As only the second European to earn this position in the NHL, Allvin follows a trailblazing Finn.
“Its a little bit of a surprise that it’s taken this long, there’s a lot of good hockey people around the world, but they’re a little bit removed from North America where the NHL plays and sometimes they’ve gotten overlooked in the past,” Rutherford said. “Now we’re starting to go in that direction, you’ve got Jarmo (Kekäläinen) in Columbus who’s done a good job and now we’ve got Patrik here in Vancouver and you’ll probably see a little more of that in the future.”
Kekäläinen became the first European NHL GM in February of 2013. His hockey experience in North America began in 1987 when he played two seasons of college hockey at Clarkson University in upstate New York. The wingers pro career lasted six seasons and included 55 NHL games. Kekäläinen actually ended his North American playing career the year before Allvin arrived, as the Finn is eight years older than the Swede.
Kekäläinen’s managerial path started when he became the general manager of IFK Helsinki in the Finnish Elite League in 1995, the same year his playing career ended due to injuries. Prior to becoming a general manager in Ohio, he previously worked for the Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues in player development and scouting.
The Columbus Blue Jackets play in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference while Allvin’s Vancouver Canucks play in the Pacific Division in the west. Vancouver is basically as far away in the NHL as you can get from Leksand, even from Pittsburgh for that matter, but at least there’s a familiar face.
“I look forward to working with him again,” Rutherford said.
(This story was written for and is being shared courtesy of the international puck newsletter Hockey Wanderlüst for whom the author also writes)