Training for the dream
It’s been just over a year since his name was called at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but Tsawwassen’s Brendan Gallagher’s routine hasn’t changed much. If anything, it’s become more demanding.
That’s the life of the Vancouver Giants’ 19-year-old forward who is striving to make the pro ranks with the Montreal Canadiens—he was selected in the fifth round, 145th overall.
“It was a unique experience for me,” he says shyly, relating what it was like on draft day. “I was sitting around with my mom. My dad and my brother were in Calgary. So, I was at home with my two sisters, as well, watching it on TV. I was waiting for a call from my agent and when it came it was a good experience to share.”
When he heard it was Montreal, one of the NHL’s original six teams, that had chosen him the reaction put a big smile on his face as the significance started to sink in.
“To hear it was a team like Montreal was really exciting,” he says. “Going to a Canadian team, first of all, but a storied franchise with obviously 24 Stanley Cups. It will be fun going in there and seeing the history of the franchise.”
Being in a hotbed of Canadian hockey will be a benefit, Gallagher says.
“There’s a lot of good role models there. Plus there’s other smaller players in the organization, so I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s a life-long dream for Gallagher, the Giants’ leading scorer last season—44 goals and 47 assists in just 66 games. But he knows there’s a long road ahead if he wants to catch on with the pro club.
“I think every kid who grows up playing hockey wants to be in the NHL, especially growing up in Canada,” he says. “And when you do get drafted you realize you’re that much closer. But when you go to (NHL) camp you then realize there’s so much more work to do. There’s still a lot of competition and it gets more intense. It’s kinda eye-opening when you see a player like (Canadiens’ captain) Brian Gionta and see how hard he is still working in the gym. And he’s a proven NHL veteran. So, you know it’s going to be that much harder to make the NHL one day.”
Helping him contend for that prized spot on the Canadiens is a solid foundation developed with the Giants.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be with the Vancouver Giants since I guess I was 14,” he says. “Since then, they’ve treated me well. They are a first class organization. You don’t always get that at the junior ranks. But with Vancouver I’ve had a great coach in Don Hay. He’s taught me so much, but I’ve also got a lot to learn.”
Giving Gallagher a “home side” advantage is the fact the Giants’ strength and conditioning coach is his father, Ian Gallagher.
“He’s good at separating the team stuff from family time,” Gallagher says of his dad. “At the rink he’s my trainer and just as intense as he is with the other players. And at home he kinda lightens up a little bit. It’s obviously been to my advantage being able to live with a strength coach and someone who’s very knowledgeable with the off-season part of the game.”
And this summer, because of an early exit from the WHL playoffs, there’s been plenty of time to train.
“It’s been a long, four months of training,” Gallagher says. “Monday to Friday we work out three hours a day. There’s a lot of time in the gym.”
He recently attended the World Junior summer camp in Calgary where he was among the country’s top 47 young players.
“That was a special moment to see all the great players and you know if you want to make that team you have to be at the top of your game. And even in the summer everyone is competing and trying to make an impression on the coaching staff. Even at those camps you can’t afford to take a day off.”
In September he’ll be off to the Canadiens’ rookie camp, and from there how long he stays comes down to how well he plays.
“You basically stay there until they decide to send you back home,” he says smiling. “Being a 19-year-old the chances aren’t very good for me now, but you still go with the mindset you’re there to compete for the team and a job. And if you do that, only good things can happen.”