MONTREAL - When Brendan Gallagher suffered his second major hand injury in as many seasons in early January, he quickly turned to his family's group chat for help.
Realizing he would require hand surgery for a second-straight year and that the first few days following the procedure wouldn't be easy, the 25-year-old winger requested some help with basic tasks before going under the knife.
The question was: which Gallagher was going to make the five-hour flight from Vancouver to Montreal to care for the scrappy forward in his time of need.
Being a physiotherapist, his mother Della was certainly a prime candidate. She cared for her second-eldest child back in November 2015 when he underwent surgery on his left hand to repair two fractured fingers after blocking a Johnny Boychuk slap shot.
This time around, though, it was his younger brother, 20-year-old Nolan, who stepped up, jumping on a plane to be his primary caregiver for a week-and-a-half post-op.
"The first time I got hurt, I kind of realized what I was going through. After you have surgery, you're not really able to take care of yourself. You're pretty out of it for a couple of days. I knew I needed someone, so I just put it out there after I learned the bad news in Dallas. At the time, Nolan was working for my dad and helping him out, so he had no problem giving him the time off," said Gallagher, who sustained a second fracture to that same hand after being struck by a Shea Weber blast on January 4.
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"I remember we arrived at the hospital in Montreal around the same time. Right as I was getting wheeled into surgery, Nolan was there waiting for me. When it was over, he took me home. I woke up around 1:00 p.m. the next day, and the caretaking began," added Gallagher with a laugh.
Even though Nolan doesn't boast Della's knowledge and experience in this particular domain, he absolutely delivered. The former defenseman is currently studying to be a firefighter in Alberta.
"He did a good job. The first thing you have to do is go to the clinic and get all the pain killer meds that have to be taken. He made sure we followed the proper instructions -- when to take them, how to take them. He was right on top of it, doing everything he could to help me heal," said Gallagher. "He did all kinds of work around the house and drove me everywhere. For him to take on that responsibility was pretty cool."
The meal situation, meanwhile, steadily improved over time.
"Neither of us are all that great in the kitchen, so my mom was a bit worried about that. But the two of us figured it out to survive the 10 days," added Gallagher with a laugh. "The first meal we made was grilled cheese and Kraft Dinner. She wasn't impressed.
"By the end of the week, though, I think Nolan was on the barbecue making steaks and stuff like that. So, he got better."
More importantly, Nolan helped keep Brendan's spirits up during one of the most frustrating moments of his season, when he was initially slated to miss at least eight weeks of action. He ended up being out for just five, missing 18 games before returning to active duty on February 12 in Boston.
"The work you've got to do to get back is tough. There are days when you come to the rink and you're not really in great spirits after the injury. It's not a good time. Having family around is the best thing," said Gallagher. "You're away from the group, so you don't really have your teammates to rely on because they're doing their own thing and getting ready to play. Nolan kept me upbeat."
In retrospect, it was a unique experience for the Gallagher brothers to share. During the season, they typically don't get to spend much time just enjoying each other's company.
"It was nice just being able to hang out and have him enjoy the city with me. With me being injured and unable to do anything, we were able to sit around and spend time together. I really appreciated his help. He's such a caring guy. He knew I needed help and he came right out," said Gallagher. "That's what the Gallaghers do. We support each other in everything. Nolan was definitely there for me when I needed him."