It's an image that won't go away and Gerard Gallant likes to joke with his long-time friend and colleague Mike Kelly about it.
"I tell Mike, every time a coach in the NHL gets fired, TSN is going to show that picture of him and I standing at the curb with our bags waiting for a cab."
While that may be an enduring picture - Gallant has a whole different outlook on life in the NHL these days. He's the head coach of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. New contract, new GM, new organization and new town. Getting fired is never fun but for Gallant it turned out to be a bonus. He got to step back and reassess his life and his profession. He spent time with family and got to work on the bench for Team Canada at the World Championship.
In pro sport, the rear-view mirror is for retirement. Gallant is looking forward. To a new team and a new season.
The coach sat down with VegasGoldenKnights.com in Los Angeles recently and talked about life in the desert and his new gig.
Video: Gallant was victorious in his first game as VGK coach
VGK.com: What's your goal heading into training camp?
GG: I think to get to know our players. Obviously, we have a lot of different players coming from different teams from the expansion draft. To get to know our guys and it's going to be fun, we're looking forward to it. I've spent the last three weeks with the new coaching staff with Ryan McGill and Ryan Craig. Obviously, I've known Mike Kelly for a long time. But to meet our staff and get together with them and spend a lot of time was really important to us. Now we move on to getting to know the players.
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VGK.com: How do you make a group of players from so many different places and background a team in such a short amount of time?
GG: That's a big challenge for sure. But I've had some experience in being an assistant coach for Team Canada. We had a lot of players come from different teams going to the World Championships. After three weeks, when you're with those players together, they felt like a team. I think the players know each other from around the league. Once you're together and they're spending a lot of time with each other at training camp, they're going to team dinners and spending some time together the chemistry will come together real quick.
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VGK.com: There's lots of opportunity on this roster - do you have a preconceived notion of how certain players will fit in or is it, to borrow George McPhee's phrase - a blank canvas?
GG: I think when you look at the players on our roster, and like you said training camp makes a big difference, you watch video tapes of some players and you say 'he's going to fit in good with this guy.' That's not always the way it works. You get some chemistry at camp and put two or three guys together and find out those guys two guys read off of each other really well. The players determine that, really, for you. It's nice to watch when you see the chemistry click. It always happens, like I said. The guys playing with different guys. Once you get to know that guy a little bit and you get a friendship with them, the chemistry will work.
Video: Gallant speaks before his first game as VGK coach
VGK.com: Do you have a lineup on the whiteboard in your office right now?
GG: You look at that every day and you know it's not going to be right. It's going to be close. We've got 5 lines up there and we've got 10 defensemen up there and three goaltenders. You tinker with it every day and you say 'this is going to work and that's going to work'. Again, I kept saying this in the interview. The players are going to decide where they're going to play and how much they're going to play and who they're going to play with. That's the fun part about it.
VGK.com: How much input will you have in the final roster?
GG: I'm sure I'll have a lot of input. We're a staff and we work together as a staff; George (McPhee), Kelly (McCrimmon) and the scouts. So, we'll sit down and we want to pick the best players available. I think it's going to be easy to do it because the guys will determine that at training camp. We want to put the best team on the ice that we can.
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VGK.com: What's it been like working with Kelly and George?
GG: It's been great. From the first time I sat down and interviewed with them back in January, I knew there was a connection there and I knew things would work out good. I didn't spend a whole lot of time with them during the summer. They were really busy with the expansion draft. They spent a lot of time with their scouts. The last three weeks we've spent a lot of time together. We're communicating really well and I think it's going to be outstanding; a lot of fun. Their good hockey guys and they put together a good organization.
VGK.com: You were fired early last season by the Florida Panthers. Now you're back to work - how was the time away and are you anxious to get behind the bench in and NHL game again?
GG: The funny thing about that was at the end of November last year, I wasn't working. I had some time. The good thing about that, and George talked about it when I interviewed in early January. [He said] spend as much time as you can with your family, get away from the game for a little bit and you know you'll be refreshed when you come back. That's exactly what happened. I went to Europe for a month to spend some time with my grandson and my daughter and my son-in-law (Brad Boyes plays professional hockey in Germany). We had a good time and I enjoyed the hockey over there, watching it. But to get away for two months was outstanding. Now you're hungry again. Now I'm ready to go. We've got our staff together and we're ready to go to work.
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VGK.com: Why are you a coach?
GG: That's all I've done. I've never done anything in my life besides hockey. I played for a long time and when I wasn't playing anymore, I went to coach a tier two team the next year. I enjoy it, I love coming to the rink every day and I love being around hockey people. The people I'm around, we usually have a good time. We have fun. We're usually good friends. In the hockey business, everybody knows everybody. To be around as long as I've been around the game, I enjoy the people that I'm around. Like I said, going to the rink every day and seeing hockey, it doesn't matter if it's NHL hockey or it's junior hockey. I mean, I've coached in Junior A, I've coached in Junior major, I've coached on different levels. It's just fun to be around the game and fun to be around those people.
VGK.com: Is it important to have fun at work?
GG: To be honest with you, I've had fun 90 per cent of my career. As a player, I loved going to the rink every day. As a coach, there was some tough times last year obviously when things weren't going well it made it tough. I said it to my wife, I said 'I'm not having fun,' and she knew that. When you come to the rink every day and have fun and enjoy your staff and the people you're working with it's the best job in the world. For me it's about having fun and working hard and doing your job.