Considering how much weight Gwinnett rookie forward Pat Galivan has been carrying around on his shoulders lately, it's no surprise that he's had a few kinks in his back.
During a recent visit home to Oak Park, Ill., his mom, Gail, came to the rescue. Gail is a massage therapist who knew just which spots to hit to wring out all the soreness and tension.
"When I was home for Christmas, I got a good (massage), she was working on my back. Every time I see her, she asks if I need something worked on," Pat said.
And what about a tip? Not in the form of cash, that's for sure.
"She knows she's not getting money from me," Pat said. "At least, not now."
Gail can consider her contributions a long-term investment in her son's career, ones that could pay off down the road. For now, she better remain on standby the next few weeks. Pat's load doesn't figure to lighten much any time soon.
Galivan has gone from role player to "Mr. Everything" for the Gladiators in three months. With key contributors Tom Zanoski
, Scott Mifsud
, Brad Schell
and Matt Caruana
either hurt or called up for long stretches, Galivan has jumped up to drive the offense with 16 goals and 13 assists, a points total that places him fifth among league rookies. He's accomplished that while, at the same time, making a relatively smooth switch from wing to the new position of center.
"He's been consistent all year, to tell you the truth. You don't know how well he's done unless you've been here watching him," Gladiators coach Jeff Pyle said. "There's a ton of little things he does well, just knowing the game, understanding the system. He's absolutely no maintenance. You don't hear a thing out of him. At our level, it's great to have a guy like that."
The marriage between Galivan, 23, and the Gladiators has been a natural one. Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, Galivan was thrilled when the Wolves took an interest in him coming out of Western Michigan. He could have pursued an ECHL-only pact with another organization and kept himself open to any AHL team, but instead he snatched up Chicago's offer of an AHL-ECHL deal.
Galivan's end game of getting a chance to skate in his backyard was delayed though, when he suffered a hip pointer in training camp and missed a month.
"I went with them because I wanted to get the chance to play at home. It had been a long time," Galivan said. "I knew I'd be on the bubble. It's just the opportunity (that was key). I took it and ran with it."
His pro splash is a repeat performance of how his college career evolved. In his first three years at WMU combined, he posted 16 goals. As a senior, he went 19-28 to lead the CCHA in scoring.
In Gwinnett, Galivan began as a third-liner until all the comings and goings forced Pyle to push him into a top-six spot several weeks ago. Galivan's consistency has been notable for anyone, much less a rookie. He posted 7 goals in 11 November games, never going more than one contest without scoring. More recently, he's put up 6 goals and 4 assists in his last six games.
"We had some older guys who were established. Eventually, somewhere down the road, I feel I would have made an impact," he said. "When I got the chance, I didn't want to miss the opportunity. I guess you could call me a handy man right now."
Galivan assesses his odds and tends to make the right call like that. Like most hockey players, he enjoys passing the bus trips playing cards. He had a little bit of luck early, then realized his tells were obvious. So he's backed off from putting too much on the line.
"Usually the first road trip, I'll win a couple bucks. After that, I'll lose," he said. "I don't have the best poker face. I'm not good at hiding it. I try and (not lose) the per diem."
Pyle wishes his project would push more to the middle of the table, at least from a shooting standpoint. Even though Pyle has moved Galivan into a playmaking role in the middle, he implores his player to create scoring chances with his shot more often.
"He's been consistent all year, to tell you the truth. You don't know how well he's done unless you've been here watching him. There's a ton of little things he does well, just knowing the game, understanding the system. He's absolutely no maintenance. You don't hear a thing out of him. At our level, it's great to have a guy like that." -- Gladiators coach Jeff Pyle, on Pat Galivan
"He's not selfish enough. He's one of those guys you wish would shoot more," Pyle said. "I've been putting a lot of pressure on him to shoot the puck. A lot of guys are like that at this level. They look to pass the puck. He's one of those guys who is so good, he's always in position to get that shot."
Galivan explained that the shooting reflex will return to his game once he feels comfortable that he's tending to all the other job requirements of his new position, which he slid into about a dozen games ago.
"I never thought I'd be playing center. I was a little bit concerned. The thing I was most nervous about was taking faceoffs," he said. "I've always thought of myself as more of a playmaker. That's one of the strong points of my game, anticipation. Now that I'm gaining more confidence, I know I can put the puck in the net. The more consistent you are, the more reliable you can be, you can be in every situation."
The roster flux of an ECHL season makes those opportunities a game-by-game proposition for most rookies. Player shuffling gave Galivan his chance to move up the depth chart for the Gladiators in the first half. He knows any dropoff in his production or the return of other regulars could just as easily slide him down the other way.
"I don't really think about it. Obviously, it comes up, but it's a quick thought," he said. "I think he (Pyle) has the confidence now to keep me up on one of those first two lines. I just try to win more battles than I lose. If everything keeps going well for me, I could stay up there for the rest of the year."