Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher takes a selfie with Gus, the bulldog owned by Josh and Maggie Gorges. Gallagher lived for almost two years with Gorges, his now ex-teammate who on July 1 was traded to the Buffalo Sabres. Gallagher jokes that he’ll miss Gus more than Gorges when he finds himself a new place to live this fall.
Photograph by: Brendan Gallagher
MONTREAL — It’s no secret that Brendan Gallagher lives every moment with a smile on his face, whether he’s scoring for the Canadiens or being pounded into a fine dust in the goal crease of the opposition.
So it was hardly a surprise that Gallagher was still laughing on Monday from Vancouver, talking about being homeless in Montreal while living out of boxes on the West Coast.
Gallagher was setting up shop in the first place of his own when he took a call, having taken possession a week ago of a condominium that’s apparently just a healthy slice from a golf course in Vancouver.
“I can get out and work on my game,” he said brightly. “I try to play a lot. I’m not terrible.”
Montreal, however, is more problematic. From the start of the 2012-13 season, Gallagher’s rookie year with the Canadiens, he has lived under the Brossard roof of now ex-Habs defenceman Josh Gorges and Gorges’s then-fiancée, now wife, Maggie.
But on July 1 came Gorges’s trade to the Buffalo Sabres. And with that, Gallagher lost a dear friend, a role-model teammate and an easygoing landlord.
To say nothing of Maggie’s fine meals and the companionship of Gus, the Gorges family bulldog.
“I don’t know where I’m going to be next year,” Gallagher said. “I guess I have to move out on my own and start taking care of myself.”
Gallagher spent a week at Gorges’s summer home in Kelowna, B.C., in September 2012, training with a group of pros in Gorges’s hometown. And from there, Gorges offered his Brossard home to the youngster who would arrive with the Canadiens that lockout-shortened season, a campaign that would see Gallagher nominated for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
“I can’t thank Josh enough for everything he did for me,” the 22-year-old said. “It says a lot about who he is, for two years taking me in and teaching me every single day.
“And I have to thank Maggie as much as Josh. She put up with me and made sure there was food on the table every night. Those two were pretty important for me to be able to have success my first two years.”
During his stay came Gus, the rumbling four-legged beauty that played both men like a fiddle.
So much so that, when I asked Gallagher whether he’d miss Gorges or Gus more, he replied, with a laugh:
“I’ll go with Gus on this one. He’s my little buddy. You’d come home after a tough road trip and he’s always there, pretty excited to jump up on the couch with you. I’ll miss lounging around with him. He’s a very low-maintenance dog.”
Gallagher pretty much dissolved into a living room sofa every chance he got, Gus often on top of him.
On whether he left a good impression during his nearly two years with his hosts, Gallagher says, “Yes. In their couch. That thing has a pretty good indent for all the time I spent lying on it.”
All of his suits and winter clothes are in the Brossard home, and he joked that with Gorges and Maggie back in Kelowna, at least he doesn’t have to worry about finding it on eBay. Gallagher looks forward to bunking “maybe one last time” with the couple in Kelowna next month when he goes north to train.
The departure of Gorges deeply touched not only the veteran who was traded.
“There were some rumours before the trade that they were trying to move Josh,” Gallagher said of the awkward transaction that finally lurched to fruition.
“He sent me a text before the trade that it was going to happen. I didn’t really believe it until it went through, but there was about a week of preparation that it was going to happen.
“You could see watching his interviews and reading his texts he was sending me that Josh really did play with his heart. He left it all on the ice, every single shift, and I think that’s what he wants everyone to realize — that he loved being a Montreal Canadien, loved being a part of this organization, loved everything that came with it.
“He played that way every night. He was willing to sacrifice his body and do whatever it took to win. He’d have loved to bring a Stanley Cup to this city. In his mind, it was getting close, so the trade was tough for him.
“For us to lose him, we are going to have a void to fill, but we feel we’re capable of doing it,” Gallagher said. “It puts more responsibility on guys like myself, younger players, who have to understand that we have to step up and take on some of the responsibility that Josh seemed to take care of very easily.”
Gallagher sees no obvious replacement for the free-agency-departed Brian Gionta as Habs captain, Gorges the odds-on favourite before he was dealt.
“I don’t know if I can say anyone right now,” he said. “You’ll see who really steps up and takes on the responsibility, but at the same time I don’t think it really matters who has the C on their sweater. It’s showing up and leading by example every night. That’s what our team does well.
“Regardless of your age or how many years you’ve been in the league, everyone shows up and you play for your teammates. We must hold ourselves accountable to that standard. We have lots of leaders in that room, lots of guys willing to stand up and say what’s needed to be said. Guys who are willing to go on the ice, sacrifice their bodies and do what’s needed to be done.”
Gallagher says he’s “in healthy shape,” his bruises healed following a 99-game season in which he missed just a single match, that with the flu. That in itself is remarkable given the rugged, bone-crushing game he plays in the goalie’s blue paint.
“It was tough losing the way we did,” he said of the Canadiens’ six-game conference-final elimination by the New York Rangers. “But you have to take it for what it is. My first year, losing to Ottawa (in the quarterfinals), you understood where we are at that time.
“We were hungry to train last summer to come back to improve. We did that, but it was still a very disappointing end. When you’re that close, it makes you that much more hungry.
“As soon as I got home (six weeks ago), I started training. My body didn’t need too much time to heal. I took a week off, 10 days, and was back at it. You’re hungry and very motivated to get back and improve on what we did last year.”
Among his dryland training partners in Vancouver is Boston Bruins heavyweight Milan Lucic, who was last seen two months ago allegedly uttering handshake-line threats at Habs Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin.
“We’ve definitely had a few conversations about that series,” Gallagher said of his gym sessions with Lucic. “We can laugh about it a little now but we weren’t laughing at the time. I’m sure everyone is looking forward to our first game against Boston (Oct. 16 at the Bell Centre). A lot of people will be talking about that one.
“The best part is that we went through that seven-game series against each other and when you’re working out beside the guy, you’re competitive in the gym as well. It pushes you.
“When you’re racing him, you want to beat him. When you’re running up the hill, you want to beat him. You want to do more in the gym lifting weights. It’s a healthy competition. I like to see Loochie have success — just not against us.”
Gallagher’s next game will be his 148th for the Canadiens, time flying by for one of the most popular Habs. Even in the dead of July, the season ahead can’t come quickly enough.
“We all understand the group we have. We all get along very well and we all push each other to improve on what you’ve done in the past,” he said.
“When you go three rounds, you understand what it takes, how hard it is, how the intensity level changes from game to game. That’s why you’re in the gym, that’s what you’re training for. Everyone wants the opportunity.
“It’s going to be important to get off to a good start. We’re in a very tough division and it’s going to be a battle to make the playoffs again.
“But that’s your first goal: get in, then once you’re there, see what happens. I’m very excited to get back and start it off.”
Gallagher will find a new place to live in good time, teammates and the club’s player services staff able to offer advice and assistance.
The bigger decision, he knows, will be choosing between staying on the South Shore or moving into town.
“Two sides to that,” Gallagher said. “Brossard is just a short drive to the practice rink. But in my first year alone I’ll have to learn to cook. …”
By now he’s laughing again.
“So if it’s no good, I’m going to be eating out a lot and downtown has more restaurants.”
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