February 14th 2015: Hockey Night In Canada. Habs and Leafs on a Saturday night. I was seated in section 113 of the Bell Centre, next to my dad, soaking in every ounce of euphoria and exhilaration hockey’s cathedral had to offer. It was a night I will never forget.
The Canadiens were down 1-0 late in the second, and were desperate for some life. They needed someone to take control of the game, and ignite the Bell Centre crowd. A warrior to lead the Canadiens into battle head on, and do whatever it takes to come out of the hockey game with two points. Guess who?
Brendan Gallagher put home a rebound on the powerplay late in the second period to tie the game, and sent the Bell Centre into a frenzy. The Canadiens went on to win in a shootout, and I left Montreal the next day with no voice and an ear to ear smile. None of which made possible without a second period tally and spark provided by Brendan Gallagher. The guy that will go to battle each and every night and drag the team with him , will give you a timely goal when you need it, and will cause havoc in the crease. Gallagher has proved time and time again why he is the heartbeat of the Montreal Canadiens.
Turmoil surrounded The Canadiens and Brendan Gallagher recently, as news broke that contract talks had broken off between the two parties. The 28-year old Edmonton native was set to become a UFA at the end of next season. The Canadiens were making efforts to lock up the forward long-term to not only keep their heart and soul in a Habs’ uniform, but to shield from the in-season distractions provided by the Montreal media circus. Rumors swirled that the Vancouver Canucks were looking to trade for Gallagher. Dream on Canucks fans. The turmoil lasted about a day, and order was restored as Gallagher signed a 6 year $39 million contract extension. A pay raise to which Gallagher deserves every penny.
Gallagher was not a highly sought after draft prospect, falling to the Canadiens at #147 in the 5th round of the 2010 NHL entry-draft. A statement from The Score’s John Matisz sums up what most teams that passed up on drafting the feisty right winger are probably thinking ” Ten years on, Gallagher’s arguably the biggest steal of the 2010 draft class.” Not a bad tip of the cap.
Gallagher spent half of his first pro season in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs, putting up 15 goals and 13 assists in 44 games. Pretty decent numbers as a rookie, which forced the Canadien’s hand. Gallagher was called up halfway through the season and has never looked back. The diminutive winger kicked his NHL career off on the right note, putting his first NHL goal high blocker over hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur on a sweet feed from Alex Galchenyuk. Here’s some nostalgia for you:
An interesting side story, as Gallagher can be seen in the video donning the number 73. He switched to his now well known number 11 later in his rookie season as Michael Ryder was reacquired by the Canadiens. Out of respect, Gallagher gave the veteran back the number he had worn in his four season stint with the Habs. In a recent interview on the podcast Spittin Chiclets, Gallagher states that Ryder promised him a Rolex in exchange for number 73. He in turn never received one, but was happy with number 11. Pay up Ryds. If not, Gallagher should be able to afford his own now anyway.
Gallagher’s point production has steadily rose, and would now be irregular if Gallagher didn’t hit the 50-point plateau in a season. He is no stranger to putting the puck in the net as he has hit the 30 -goal mark twice in 2018 and 2019. In his most recent campaign, Gallagher put up 22 goals and 21 assists in 59 games, as he missed time to due a concussion. A 50-point season in today’s NHL would seem pretty average for most players, but Gallagher brings much more to the lineup. Intensity, grittiness, and a peskiness around the net. Gallagher drags his teammates into the fight with him, and comes ready to battle whenever he laces up his skates.
The Canadiens’ winger has had issues with unlucky injuries over the years, mostly pertaining to his left hand. In 2015 he needed to have two fingers surgically repaired after fearlessly blocking a Johnny Boychuk blast, resulting in the forward being sidelined for six weeks. He then injured the same hand in 2017, after being struck with a Shea Weber bomb. This resulted in Gallagher being out of the Canadiens lineup for eight weeks. Something we have learned when Gallagher is injured: it is very tough to fill the void he leaves behind. It creates a hole in the Canadiens’ lineup but also removes that tenacity and hard-nosed play from the forward group. The man is just straight up hard to replace.
Why is Gallagher so special? Here are some examples from three respected members of the hockey community on what Brendan Gallagher means to the Canadiens’ organization.
- Dan Robertson, TSN 690 radio announcer for the Canadiens, has high praise for Brendan Gallagher stating ” There’s a value about Gallagher that just goes beyond the numbers. Gallagher is the heart and soul of the Habs.”
- Bryan Hayes,TSN radio host, is also a big fan of Brendan Gallagher ” My understanding is, as much as Weber is the captain, Gallagher is right there with him as being the pulse of that team. You hear from Habs fans that he is just universally loved.”
- Shortly after Gallagher re-upped his contract with the Canadiens, general manager Marc Bergevin was asked what Brendan Gallagher meant to his team. Getting very emotional and on the verge of tears, Bergevin had this to say: ” He’s a player we want. He means a lot to our hockey team. Since day one that I have been general manager he has been on our team, and you saw in the playoffs he got crosschecked in the face, and didn’t want to miss a shift. He didn’t want to leave. This guy is everything you want in a hockey player and that’s what I love about him. “
It is not very often that a GM has such high praise for a player, but to have your GM crying? That speaks volumes as to what Gallagher brings to the table
I wanted to include one of my favorite Brendan Gallagher goals to outline how Gallagher plays each and every night. Look at the time on the clock. 10.3 seconds remaining. Most players would sit back, and wait for the final buzzer, securing a single point for their team. Not Gallagher. He goes on the forecheck and gives his full effort no matter what the circumstance. He causes the Blues defenseman to turn the puck over and bats a rebound past his now teammate Jake Allen. The Gallagher celebration after the goal is the best part for me. The pure excitement with his teammates, and securing the Canadiens two points in the dying seconds of the third. The Canadiens needed a goal and Gallagher delivered. A true leader.
Gallagher has shown over his eight years in a Hab’s uniform that he has the ability to change the outcome of a game with either his on ice antics, timely scoring, or a combination of both. Number 11 leads by example, plays fearlessly, and shows no lack of heart. Gallagher would have commanded a lot of interest on the open-market just because of the kind player he is, but he remains a Hab for six more years. With all the attributes he possesses, Gallagher is a rare find. The Canadien’s had the chance to extend him long term, and didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. An investment that will undoubtedly continue to pay dividends. As the heir to Shea Weber as Canadien’s captain, Gallagher will be apart of the Hab’s core for years to come, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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