Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher sat down to take part in an exclusive interview with XN Sports writer Sean Hartnett. In this one-on-one, Gallagher chats about the responsibility of carrying the Habs’ legacy forward, the example of Jean Beliveau, lessons learned from former captain Brian Gionta, his relationship with Brandon Prust and the burger McDonald’s named after him.
For three seasons, 5-foot-9 winger Brendan Gallagher has electrified the city of Montreal with his combination of lightning speed and tenacity. The Canadiens rewarded the 22-year-old winger for his energetic two-way efforts this past fall. Gallagher agreed to a six-year, $22.5 million contract extension on Nov. 29.
Still in the beginning chapter of his NHL career, Gallagher is thankful for the opportunity to represent the prestigious, 24-time Stanley Cup champion Canadiens.
“It’s something that I’m still trying to understand,” Gallagher said. “It means a lot to play for this organization. All the history of the great players who pulled on this jersey before you, it really means a lot. There’s a special way that this organization treats you and how they go about their business. Every day you come to the rink, the main goal is striving to represent to organization the right way. We’re fortunate to have that opportunity, all the guys try to set the standard for what it means to be a Montreal Canadien.”
Gallagher knows that no matter where the Canadiens travel, away arenas are always filled with fans dressed in blanc bleu et rouge.
“What the fans mean to us, it’s one of the coolest parts about playing for the Canadiens,” Gallagher said. “Regardless of where we are, or what rink we’re in — we know there’s going to be Habs fans supporting us. It just makes it that much better.”
No player set the standard of representing the Canadiens on the ice and off the ice better than legendary Jean Beliveau. The iconic Hall of Fame center was the personification of pure class, a gentlemanly figure whom all of Quebec revered. Beliveau passed away at Dec. 2 at the age of 83.
Gallagher feels that every member of the Canadiens is trying to emulate Beliveau’s example when they pull on the famous Habs’ sweater. Inside the Canadiens’ dressing room, the popular first World War Poem by John McCrae serves as a reminder to every Canadien of the legacy they’re carrying forward.
To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high.
“He was exactly what everyone talked about,” Gallagher said of Beliveau. “He was a man full of class. He represented everything you’d want in a hockey player. He was a leader, he was an unbelievable talent. Off the ice, I think he represented the game as best as anyone could. We all try to follow the example he set.”
A teammate who made a big impact in Gallagher’s early years was former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. At 5-foot-7, Gionta is one of the smallest players in the NHL. After a five successful seasons in Montreal, Gionta joined the Buffalo Sabres this summer. Gallagher credits “Gio” for helping him learn the ropes as an undersized 5-foot-9 winger.
“Gio was a great guy to me on and off the ice,” Gallagher said. “I learned a lot having conversations with him. He was definitely an important guy to have around me the first couple years. Gio was definitely a guy that I can relate to with the way he plays. He’s a small guy who competes hard and he battles. A lot of the stuff that I’ve been able to do, he’s done for a very long time in this league.”
One current teammate whom Gallagher has a lot of fun with is 30-year-old winger Brandon Prust. Gallagher enjoys Prust’s humor and appreciates his in-your-face style of play.
“Every day he comes to the rink, he’s someone that you’re going to joke around with and battle with one way or the other,” Gallagher said. “He’s always looking to get into an argument with someone. It makes it fun coming to the rink. He’s a guy who battles for his teammates every single day. He has the respect of everybody on this team. Any chance you get to enjoy your time with him, you certainly do.”
Teammates suddenly surrounded Gallagher when the topic of McDonald’s “Le Gallagher” burger came into the conversation. About five teammates gathered around our one-on-one. “We’re screening these questions,” one teammate playfully barked out.
Gallagher threw up his hand and ordered teammates to back off. “I’m really feeling the pressure here guys,” Gallagher said.
He is so popular in Quebec that McDonald’s offers a three-patty burger in Gallagher’s honor. The official McDonald’s website describes “Le Gallagher” as “a tasty Hamburger Gallagher created by Brendan Gallagher himself, it contains 700 calories. It is made of 3 blocks of beef and topped with mayonnaise, onions into strips, strips of lettuce, bacon, melted Cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese, served on a toasted bun.”
In other words, one mouthful of a burger.
“The fans support of it is fun,” Gallagher began.
One teammate interrupted: “How many calories are in one of those?”
“It’s healthy, it’s good for you,” Gallagher said.
At a belt-busting 700 calories, Gallagher’s answer is highly debatable. On the other hand, his wholehearted performances are certainly beneficial to the Canadiens. He enters Thursday night’s meeting with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on a hot streak. Gallagher has recorded four points (one goal, three assists) over the past five games.
Through 46 games, Gallagher has collected 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points. Four of those goals have been game winners. Montreal will undoubtedly benefit tremendously for years to come because of their decision to lock up Gallagher to a six-year extension.