MONTREAL - There was no shortage of familial support for Brendan Gallagher during the Western Canada road trip.
Among those in attendance for several games last week was the 27-year-old right-winger's younger brother, Nolan, with whom he has always remained close.
Remember back in May 2017 when we told you about Nolan playing an integral part in Brendan's recovery from hand surgery? Well, that's a good indicator of the type of relationship they share.
This time around, though, the visit was a lot more lighthearted. There was a lot of football talk around the dinner table when the Canadiens had the night off in Vancouver before battling the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
"It was a lot of joking around and ragging on each other. He's a huge Baltimore Ravens fan, so he wouldn't shut up about [quarterback] Lamar Jackson," joked Brendan. "I'm in the group of people who all summer said Lamar Jackson can't throw, so I'm kind of eating my words on that right now."
He certainly is, and 22-year-old Nolan isn't going to let him live that statement down anytime soon.
While Jackson has paced the Ravens to a remarkable 13-2 record and an AFC North crown, Gallagher's beloved Cincinnati Bengals are in the division basement with just one victory on the year.
"I've definitely been giving it to him about that. He liked to celebrate [quarterback] Andy Dalton, but Andy Dalton isn't having the greatest year he's ever had and Lamar Jackson is probably having the greatest year he's ever had," cracked Nolan. "It's easy for me to be all talk, but hopefully they'll back it up in the playoffs. I'll try and keep it to a bit of a minimum, but it's tough sometimes."
All kidding aside, however, there's a lot of mutual respect between these two.
Brendan is proud of Nolan's coaching efforts at the family-owned and operated Delta Hockey Academy and his perseverance to pursue a career in firefighting down the road.
"Being a firefighter, it's going to be a career that he's going to enjoy because it's a team atmosphere. Anyone who knows my brother knows that he's someone who fits in well with people. He seems to always make people laugh, too," explained Brendan, regarding the 2016 graduate of the Vermilion Fire School. "It's the team aspect of it that I think he'll enjoy and he'll be very good at it."
Likewise, Nolan is delighted with Brendan's accomplishments to date as well.
From cracking the roster straight out of training camp in 2013, to playing far bigger than his stature and steadily earning the respect of his peers, to becoming an alternate captain, there's a lot to admire.
"You have to admire someone working hard every day, doing something they love and following their passion," praised Nolan, who watches every single Canadiens game all season long. "Just being able to watch someone close to you play in the NHL is special. Everyone knows how hard of a league it is. Seeing what kind of role he has with the team right now, night in and night out, it's pretty cool."
While Nolan won't tell Brendan that he looks up to him, it's true. He prefers to keep it hush-hush, but we're happy to share the news.
"I'd never tell him, but I do. I definitely admire his work ethic and now I try and take after him a little bit more," revealed Nolan with a smile. "He's worked really hard to get where he is. He works harder than a lot of people might think. We're all really proud of him. I probably wouldn't tell him that to his face, but we're all pretty proud of him."
Nolan makes at least one trip a year to Montreal to watch Brendan play at the Bell Centre. And they keep things rather chill, as expected, with some Sunday NFL action and Uber Eats on the menu.
It's all about spending quality time together since they reside 4,500 km and three time zones apart.
In between visits, though, the family group chat is a perfect venue to swap some chirps.
"We probably talk every day, mostly about sports. We'll rarely talk about something serious. It's about fantasy football or about what's going on in football, basketball and hockey. We're also big Toronto Blue Jays fans," said Nolan. "Sports is one thing that pulls our family closer together. We just bonded over sports, and we still do."
So when summer rolls around and the Gallagher brothers are reunited in British Columbia, the chatter continues.
"We hang out quite a bit back home. He's getting older now, so the same friends can hang out with each other. He's comfortable with my friends, I'm comfortable with his. We hang out on the golf course and spend a lot of time together," mentioned Brendan. "I'm close with all my family members, and he's no different."
And we're pretty sure Brendan doesn't let Nolan win much on the links…
"Brendan's so competitive. You can't get that guy to lose at anything," concluded Nolan with a laugh. "When he does lose, he'll always try and steer that in a way that he didn't."
No doubt they had some fun over the Christmas break as well.