February 20, 2016

Allan Bester

As a well travelled goalie, Allan Bester knew two things really well - hockey and hotels.

Therefore it comes as little surprise that Bester has enjoyed careers in both industries.

In the hockey world Bester is best known as the shell-shocked Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender back in the 1980s. (He briefly played with Detroit and Dallas, as well).

The Leafs weren't very good back in those days, and often left their goalies out to dry. The smallish Bester - who grew up idolizing Montreal's Ken Dryden - faced an average of 31 shots per game, and many nights he was making 40 saves or more and still losing games. Hence his career record of 73-99-17, with a 4.01 GAA and .883 save percentage.

In fact, the Leafs were so bad that Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry once said that Bester had seen “more rubber than a dead skunk on the Trans-Canada highway.”

Bester had famously replaced popular-turned-vilified Leafs goalie Mike Palmateer during the 1983-84 season. With Palmateer and Leafs failing and the fans chanting for Bester by name, Leafs cantankerous owner Harold Ballard ordered Bester be his new goalie.

Hailed as the savior from nearby Hamilton, the good times didn't last long. It was just the beginning of a long decade of ups and downs for Bester, who constantly battled Ken Wregget for the net, and mostly downs for the franchise.

"It was a dream come true," he said. "As a 19 year old, I was thrilled to be in the NHL. To play in Maple Leaf Gardens. I faced many shots and learned a great deal about hockey and myself during those tough years. The pressures of playing in Toronto and dealing with the press, fans, coaches and egos greatly prepared me for the ups and downs of professional hockey life."

Bester finished his career with several seasons in the minor leagues, including three seasons with the Orlando Solar Bears before retiring in 1998.

He would stay in Orlando and work for a number of big hotel chains as a sales manager and an account executive.

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