Garry Galley, member of the Los Angeles Kings Alumni Association Presented By Toyota, played parts of six seasons with the Kings (1984-87 and 1997-2000) and spent 17 years total in the NHL, accumulating 600 points (125-475=600) in 1,149 career games. A durable stay-at-home defenseman during his playing days, Galley now serves as a commentator for CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada. LAKings.com had the chance to catch up with Galley earlier in the season to talk about his time playing with the Kings, his NHL career and his role in broadcasting.
Q: What was it like coming up as a rookie with the Kings, getting to play with guys like Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor?
Galley: It was great, I mean, the Triple Crown Line was still in tact when I got here in 1984. Charlie Simmer had left at some point early in that year – got traded – but it was just great to see that combination of players that you saw as a kid growing up as a hockey player. I didn’t know a lot about LA but when I got here. The one thing that I always will remember is how well I was treated. All the veteran players – you mentioned Dave Taylor, Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer, Brian MacLellan, Terry Ruskowski, Jay Wells – they all treated me so well. Took good care of me and really taught me how to act as a professional. So my experience here was very, very good and I have fond memories from my time here in LA.
Q: In your 17 years in the NHL you played with six different teams. Was it a challenge to continuously adjust to new systems, or did you find your style of play more or less stayed the same?
Galley: I think when you play on a couple teams it’s not so bad. When you play on six teams – sometimes it’s your choice and you leave because you’re a free agent, or sometimes you get traded – but the one thing I always found for me was when you go to a team you get accepted right away by the new bunch of guys, and you feel really good about where you are. The systems are all fairly close. There’s little adjustments you have to make to certain systems that teams are doing, some teams play a little more defensive style, some teams a little more offensive. I think your role changes too. When you’re in the middle of your career, that kind of strong 10, 12 years right in the middle when you’re playing your best hockey, you’re getting more responsibility as a player. When you’re younger you’re learning the roles, and when you’re a bit older you’re helping the young kids along and you’re a veteran player. But those bulk years you’re getting an opportunity to play a lot so everything kind of falls into place. The changes are little, but you do have to pay attention to them. But the one thing about playing on six teams was that I got to get to know a lot of different guys and I got to get to know a lot of different cities and a lot of different people in the game, so I really enjoyed all the cities I played in, and I had the opportunity to play in LA twice, at two different times. Once when I had no kids and then I came back when I had my three children and they had a chance to enjoy Southern California so it all was a thrill, it’s where I started and it’s where I came back, so it’s always nice to be back.
Q: You played with the Kings both before and after the Wayne Gretzky trade. Did you find the increased awareness of hockey in L.A. made playing for the Kings different the second time around?
You know what, I think so, because when I first got here hockey wasn’t as big. When I came back the second time in ‘97 we were still playing at the Forum and this was very much a real deal, coming here to the STAPLES Center. So it was a really exciting time, the fans were excited about it and look what’s happened now. I mean, it’s just gorgeous and the outside, it’s like Times Square outside in the fun zone there, it’s just fantastic. So to see hockey thriving in California is really nice. I’m really happy to see that because I really enjoyed my time here, and not just playing here but the people here and everything that went along with it I think was really nice, my family enjoyed it, and that’s why we came back the second time. When I was a free agent I could have gone to a number of teams but when Dave Taylor called it was a no-brainer, it was a great opportunity to come back and I just think…Wayne has done so much for hockey in California and out west here with the teams in Anaheim and Phoenix. It just really strengthened it out here and I really think he’s a big reason for it. Although I never played with him, I mean, it was exciting to be a King even though I wasn’t here with him.
Q: Can you talk about some of the off-ice relationships you made here with some of the guys you played with?
Galley: There’s a lot of guys that I know from L.A. I don’t get a chance to get out here very often, but I have a lot of strong friendships. It was a close knit bunch of guys that we played with here. The one thing we didn’t do is we didn’t win. That was the tough thing because when you have such a good group of guys, to win would have been something special because we really did – we were a very, very close team and it was unfortunate we couldn’t have had some success with the number of very good guys who came here and that was kind of the missing link, why we didn’t have the success. But it would be nice to see the LA Kings have some success for sure. I’ve got a good friend, Ron Hextall, who I played with in Philadelphia, he’s down here on the management team with Dean [Lombardi]. I’m very happy for him and it’s just a matter of time before he ends up running a team of his own, he’s so talented. So yeah, I’d really like to see them have some success out here, it’s really deserved.
Q: What was it like to transition from playing to broadcasting?
Galley: I’d always been comfortable with the media and talking with the media in my 17 years. I went back to Ottawa when I retired in 2001 and I was building a house, finally, a final destination for my family. I was in a home building store and I bumped into a play-by-play guy for the Ottawa Senators who said I should go by the radio station downtown because they’re looking for some new and different things and I’d fit in well there, and I was like I don’t know, I’ll see. So I ended up going down there and auditioned for it and got a spot on an afternoon show and ended up getting a drive-home show called “More On Sports” that I did for three years. I had a great time doing it, it was a lot of fun and that parlayed me into television where some of the people had heard me on the radio and thought I’d be good on television and then tried me. I started with Rogers Sportsnet, did three years with them and while I was working with Rogers, CBC came along and offered me some games with Hockey Night in Canada. I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada, so to be doing Hockey Night in Canada now is a big thrill for me. To be able to go to the rink still, even though I’m not into coaching or around the players as much as far as on the ice stuff, it’s nice to see all the faces and be in the rinks and still be in touch with hockey. It never leaves you and that’s really given me an opportunity to do that. But broadcasting is something that I’ve really, thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a lot of fun and keeps me involved, and you know what, it keeps me out of my wife’s hair so that’s probably the most important thing.
Q: Since you came up in the 80s, the NHL has undergone many changes, not the least of which is the size and speed of the players. How do you think these changes have impacted the game?
Galley: Well certainly the players are better conditioned. They’re machines now. They’re bigger and stronger and it’s because the game evolves and the training that they do is more streamlined to what they are. I think the ice conditions and the skates and the equipment are so much lighter and stronger and the sticks – everything’s much better and they’re better. Which is great for the game. We were able to have a little more fun, I think, in my era of playing time from 1984 to 2001. You stayed in cities and you could go out and kind of enjoy yourself a little bit in the game. Now with the money that’s in the game, it’s more of a business now, and with all the social media and stuff that’s out there, you’ve got to be very careful. You’ve got to be sharp as a player now. Your career lasts for such a short period of time. These guys come out here and they live this game 24/7. Same for coaches. Coaches used to be able to take some time off here and there and leave the rink after a meeting. Now it’s a 24-hour job. So certainly the game has evolved and the video – being able to stream videos and get games instantly and watch games from coast to coast, I mean, it’s really tightened up the game. It’s made it tough to score goals – everybody studies everybody. I would say that’s the biggest change in the game, but there’s some good hockey and some good hockey players.