Gerard (Turk) Gallant admits he never saw the Vegas Golden Knights’ coaching change coming.
Gallant, who was the first head coach in franchise history, and assistant coach Mike Kelly were relieved of their duties on Wednesday morning, after four straight losses left Golden Knights still a respectable 24-19-6 (won-lost-overtime losses) in the National Hockey League.
“I was quite surprised actually when it happened,” Gallant told the Journal Pioneer on Saturday night. “You don’t see something coming like that when you have 2 ½ years in.
“I was disappointed and surprised, but I understand the hockey business and things have to change sometimes. They made a tough decision and I’m sure it was tough on them, but that’s the way hockey is.”
Gallant said he “definitely” still wants to coach.
“I’m far from done,” said Gallant, 56. “I enjoy coaching.
“If an opportunity comes up I will definitely look at it – myself and Mike. Mike is a big part of what I do too and sometimes people forget about the assistant coaches. Mike is a good man, we have been together for a long time.
“It’s not just me, Mike is part of that, too. We will get ready and hopefully, something comes up.”
The Journal Pioneer was unsuccessful in its attempt to contact the 60-year-old Kelly, who grew up in Shamrock, P.E.I., and lives in Cornwall, P.E.I.
“Mike is great,” said Gallant. “Mike went back to Vegas and he understands it.
“Mike and I are tied at the hip they might say and we are pretty close. We’ve worked together the last number of years together.
“Nothing is going to change there. It’s never easy when people get fired.”
NHL All-Star Game
Gallant was named head coach of the Pacific Division for NHL All-Star Weekend on Jan. 24-25 after leading the Golden Knights to a .591 winning percentage of 23-15-6 as of Jan. 2.
“I was an all-star coach a week and a half ago and we were in first place in our division and then things change and we lost four in a row,” said Gallant. “They made a decision, it isn’t too popular with me, but it is what it is and you have to move on.
“I’m not going to worry about the past. I’m going to look at the future and that’s what you have to do as a coach.”
Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet has been named as Gallant’s replacement for all-star weekend.
“I talked to the NHL about it and they sort of left it up to me, but I didn’t really feel comfortable (going),” said Gallant. “I just said I’d sooner pass.”
Gerard (Turk) Gallant checks out alumni photos inside the Summerside Western Capitals’ dressing room on Saturday night. Gallant, who was fired by the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, was back in his hometown and attended the Caps’ 8-1 victory over the Fredericton Red Wings in the Maritime Junior Hockey League. - Jason Simmonds
Under Gallant, the Golden Knights had a record of 118-75-20, including a five-game series loss to the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup final.
“The 2 ½ years were incredible,” said Gallant. “That first year was a magical season.
“If we could have capped it off winning the Stanley Cup it would have been incredible. The second year was a really good year, too. We made the playoffs, battled hard.
“Up until I got fired, I had 2 ½ years of being really happy in Vegas. It’s a good organization, a good team and I was excited.”
Gallant was back in his hometown watching the Summerside Western Capitals’ Maritime Junior Hockey League game against the Fredericton Red Wings on Saturday night. His son, Jason, is an assistant coach with the Capitals, the team the senior Gallant began his coaching career with during the 1995-96 season.
After being informed of the Golden Knights’ decision in Ottawa, Gallant returned to the Maritimes.
“I got on a plane and went from Ottawa to Moncton and visited the grandchildren (Caleb, 3, and Dylan, 2) and had a lot of fun with them the last couple of days,” said Gallant. “Today is my first day back in Summerside.
“All you can do is say you look forward to the next thing and hopefully something comes up and you take the opportunity if it does come up.”
Gallant’s immediate plans include spending time with his family.
“I’m going to spend some time in Moncton and P.E.I. with the grandkids for the next week, week and a half for sure,” he said. “Then I’ll go back to Vegas and clean some things up there. After that, I don’t know.
“I have a place in Florida and we may spend some time down there and a lot of time here. With the grandkids, you want to be with them as much as you can. It takes your mind off other things.”
One thing that is not lost on Gallant is the support he’s received from P.E.I., Las Vegas and all over the hockey world.
“A lot of coaches have texted and said it’s not right, but you have to move on and that’s what coaching is all about,” said Gallant. “There are a lot of coaches this year who got fired, real good coaches and good people, but that’s the business.”