There was an incident seven or eight years ago that pretty well defined the way I have thought of both players since.
I don’t recall the date or the opponent, only that Brendan Gallagher had taken a bad hit along the boards and was down on the play. Max Pacioretty was a few feet away. Pacioretty looked at Gallagher – and skated to the bench.
This happened before Pacioretty was made captain and it was one of many reasons I would have preferred to see the honour go to Gallagher even then. After many more seasons watching big, strong Pacioretty work from outside the faceoff circle while Gallagher was slashed, butt-ended and cross-checked in front of the net, I had seen enough.
I think of Pacioretty as “Prince Hamlet of Denmark.” He’s always dithering and agonizing over something, while Gallagher puts on his work clothes, picks up his lunch bucket and goes to work.
A few seasons back, coach Michel Therrien mentioned his approach to handling Gallagher. Every now and then, Therrien would remember to ask Gallagher if everything was okay, and he would always get the same reply:
No bitching, no sulking, no up one day and down the next like Max Domi. A couple of years ago, I wrote a column on the resemblance between Gallagher and Mike Keane, a former captain who was a big part of the Canadiens last Stanley Cup in 1993.
Keane didn’t have Gallagher’s offensive upside but apart from that, the two were very much alike, lunch-bucket guys who worked every shift, never complained, and always did whatever was asked. During that awful mess of a lockout season in 1995, Keane (a middleweight at best) even became the team’s designated fighter.
The enduring mystery about Gallagher is why he can’t get a call from officials – or even a ruling from the Department of Player Safety when his jaw is broken. Unlike Brad Marchand, Gallagher is never dirty and he never dives. He’s tough, he sets up his office in the crease, but he never complains. You’d think referees would love him but, although it’s gotten better in recent years, he still can’t buy a call.
Nevertheless, he is loved by the fans, with reason. Gallagher is an absolute throwback, a player from another era before the NHLPA and agents, eight-figure contracts and prima donnas. He reminds me of guys I’ve watched over the years like Jimmy Roberts, Steve Bégin and Mike Keane. Varying talent levels but they all took the same approach to the game.
This being Habs land, there was much hysteria when the rumour went around that talks between the Canadiens and the Gallagher camp had broken off. I barely raised an eyebrow. After the offseason he has had, would GM Marc Bergevin blow it all by failing to sign Gallagher?
One of these days, the Habs Mob has to learn: don’t trust these fly-by-night, guy-in-his-basement websites. Don’t trust everything you hear from the alleged experts in Toronto, either. And, just once in a while, trust your own common sense.
Next time one of these crazy rumours starts flying around, ask yourself this: Do you believe that Marc Bergevin was showing his cards to anyone?
Then ask yourself what group is responsible for 80 or 90 or maybe 99 percent of the leaks in the NHL?
So why do agents leak stuff?
As a negotiating ploy, or to curry favour with media people who will put their names out there so they can recruit more clients.
Follow the money. It almost always leads back to the same place – to agents. As for the Anonymous Bobs in Twitter world, even the agents don’t talk to them. They comb social media, see what other other people are saying, then put up the latest rumour: “Hearing that the Habs are about to deal Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki and a first rounder to the Canucks for Jake Virtanen.”
(I mention that preposterous bit of rumour-mongering because Mathias Brunet of La Presse posted it as a joke this week and at least one Canucks fan cited it as proof of how highly Virtanen is regarded around the league.)
Anyway, no more rumours, no more jokes. Lunch-bucket Brendan is signed for another six more seasons of getting chopped, axed and speared in front of the net and never getting a call.
Gallagher will never take a shift off and he will never stop smiling.
“Everything okay, Brendan?”