It's fair to say Brendan Gallagher
may be the one player on the Canadian National Junior Team capable of providing the most accurate assessment of coach Don Hay.
The reason is quite obvious -- Gallagher has spent the last three seasons playing for Hay on the Vancouver Giants in Western Hockey League. Hay has been coach of the Giants since 2004, winning a Memorial Cup in 2007, the third of his illustrious career.
"The one thing you learn about Don very quickly is he's very intense and very competitive," Gallagher said. "He knows how to win hockey games. If you do what he wants you to do, play hard and compete, you'll have no problems … he'll like you. He loves competitive, smart players, so if you're able to do that you'll be on his good side."
The fact Gallagher knows Hay a little better than the 21 other players on the Canadian roster really doesn't change his mindset on the ice.
"I'd go hard no matter what, but sometimes you do feel pressure," he said. "I want to impress Don just like everyone else here. He's got pressure on him and he wants to win this tournament very badly."
When Gallagher had gotten word that Hay landed the job for Team Canada, he was excited.
"I know Don and know how competitive a guy he is; he takes a lot of pride in this opportunity so being around him I know he's been working on this all summer," Gallagher said. "As a coach, he's going to give this team a very good opportunity to win. As a player, you're excited to hear about that."
There's no question Gallagher has reaped the benefits of having Hay as his coach since 2008-09. The 5-foot-8 1/2, 175-pound wing led the Giants in scoring in 2010-11 with 91 points, including 44 goals. The self-proclaimed agitator, who was selected in the fifth round by the Montreal Canadiens
in 2010, also racked up 108 penalty minutes.
"I'm not the most liked guy in our league, but it's all about helping your team," he said. "I don't go out of my way to do it, but it's the style of game I play that leads to (running into goalies). Sometimes, when you're going to the net hard, you will aggravate some players."
This year, Gallagher leads the club once again with 24 goals, 46 points, 10 power-play goals and a plus-12 rating in 28 games. He scored a goal Monday in Canada's 3-1 exhibition victory against Finland during a tune-up game in Calgary.
He knows the kind of game the Canadian coaching staff is looking for each time he hops on the ice.
"Everything he does is about the team, and he's always been doubted or second-guessed because of his size. But he doesn't let that size become a factor. He shows courage … he goes into those areas that a lot of people don't want to go into." -- Don Hay on Brendan Gallagher
"Driving the net hard is a big part of my game and I score a lot of my goals from around that blue crease so that goes back to the aggravating thing," he said. "I do bump goalies sometimes and opposing players don't like that so they'll come after me and they should but it's a part of my game."
Hay knows Gallagher needs to play with an edge in order to be successful.
"I get to see him a lot on our team in Vancouver and, obviously, he's a competitive young man," Hay said. "Everything he does is about the team, and he's always been doubted or second-guessed because of his size. But he doesn't let that size become a factor. He shows courage … he goes into those areas that a lot of people don't want to go into."
Gallagher said he enjoys watching the way other smaller players around the NHL have perfected their game.
"I really enjoyed watching a player like Brad Marchand
in the playoffs, or a Brian Gionta
in Montreal camp when I was there," Gallagher said. "I've admired Martin St. Louis
my whole life so I watch those smaller guys closely to see what they do and the one thing they all do is compete. They are very hard to play against, so that's one thing I take from their game. If you are a smaller player and want to play in the NHL, you have to have that compete level and that will."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale