|Former Red Wings forward Gerard Gallant is now in his second season as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – For the first time in over seven years, former Red Wings left wing Gerard Gallant returned to Joe Louis Arena Thursday.
“It’s great, I mean I had a lot of good friends, great years in Detroit so I’m excited to be back,” Gallant said. “Being here for nine years it’s really special.”
Gallant, now an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens, began his 11-season NHL career in Detroit in 1984. He was a fixture on the Red Wings’ top line alongside Hall of Fame center Steve Yzerman, and looks back on his time in Hockeytown with fond memories.
“The Kocurs, the Proberts, the Yzermans and all those guys I played with, special feeling,” Gallant said. “I mean (general manager) Kenny Holland I think he was a scout when I was here starting and some of those guys so it’s been a long time ago but nothing but great memories. Everybody treats you real well. The organization, I think when we started it was sort of on a down-spin but it really took off and it hasn’t stopped since so it’s nice to see that, I mean, it’s been a great team for 25-30 years now.”
There’s no doubt that Red Wings fans would have loved to see Gallant suit up with his old teammates to participate in last month's Alumni Showdown between Toronto and Detroit as part of the 2013 Hockeytown Winter Festival. Although it would have been an honor for him to join the festivities, a New Year's Eve match-up against the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. kept Gallant from attending the showdown at Comerica Park.
Nothing stopped the assistant coach from watching the highlights, though.
“I watched part of it, the first game and didn’t see the second game but I watched a lot of highlights and it was good to see all names because you don’t bump into a lot of guys,” Gallant said. “Sure you bump into some guys but a lot of the guys you don’t see that much anymore.”
One player he particularly enjoyed watching was University of Michigan coach Red Berenson, who didn’t look anywhere near his 74 years as he transformed into a coach on the ice during Detroit’s final faceoff that gave the Red Wings the victory.
“That was awesome, to see him battle like that,” Gallant said. “Guys are competitive and they always want to have fun but they want to win, too. It was pretty amazing, he looks like he could he still play.”
Gallant enjoyed a career with Detroit and Tampa Bay, playing in 615 games in which he tallied 211 goals and 480 points. The Summerside, Prince Edward Island, native began coaching in the Maritime Junior Hockey League in 1995, and advanced through the International Hockey League and American Hockey League before joining the Columbus Blue Jackets as an assistant coach in 2001-02. He earned the club’s head coaching position midway through the 2003-04 season, and stayed at the helm of the program until November 2006.
After two more coaching stints with the New York Islanders and the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, Gallant joined Montreal’s organization in June 2012.
Friday night, he’ll try to coach his new team to a victory over his old one in an Original Six and Atlantic Division match-up at the arena that he enjoyed for nine seasons.
“The Red Wings organization is a great organization, a great team and I think Montreal-Detroit is a great rivalry,” Gallant said. “I think tomorrow is going to be the first game against them this season out of four so it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be good and like I said that rivalry dates back for a long time and it’s going to flare up again for sure.”