Chris Drury didn’t waste too much time (about one month) in finding a new coach after firing David Quinn. The New York Rangers’ new president and general manager officially welcomed Gerard Gallant to the family on Wednesday. Could Gallant be what the Rangers need to get over the playoff hump?
Welcome to the Family, Gerard
Gallant, who’s joining his fourth NHL team in a career that’s spanned almost nine seasons, is the 36th head coach in franchise history. The former Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights bench boss has a .550 points percentage and a regular-season record of 274-216-4-51. Gallant’s best tenure was with the Golden Knights, where he coached them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. He had a record of 118-75-20 in Vegas before surprisingly being fired in January of 2020. Gallant has a career record of 18-15 in the playoffs.
Duguay and Jagr on Gallant
Many refer to Gallant as being a player’s coach who knows how to handle both younger players and veterans. Former teammate (Detroit) and former Rangers forward Ron Duguay said, “Gerry had a calming presence in the locker room. But when he competed on the ice, he made a great teammate because you always knew he had your back. You always admire guys that are willing to fight for you and cover for you, Gerry is all about that.” Duguay, added, “He knows how to speak to a younger player and knows how to speak to a veteran.” (From ‘Rangers hiring Gerard Gallant as new head coach’, New York Post, 6/14/21)
Former Rangers star Jaromir Jagr who played under Gallant in Florida said, “He is tough but friendly and he is honest with the players.” Jagr also said, “In my opinion, with the players having so much power, that is the way a coach has to be. You can’t threaten to send players down or take away their ice time. That does not work.” He finished by saying, “You have to be honest with the top guys and create trust with them. You have to be tough but you have to create the [environment] so players want to play for you and will do extra. That’s the way I see it. And that’s the way he is, not only with the top guys but with everyone, no matter who you are.” (From ‘Gerard Gallant is ideal choice to solve star issue that haunted Rangers’, New York Post, 6/15/21)
Drury and Dolan on Gallant
Gallant was the first of two prospective coaches the Rangers interviewed for their coaching vacancy. Gallant sat down with Drury before he headed off to Riga, Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship. Team Canada got off to an 0-3 start in Riga, but Gallant and the squad were able to pull it together and come up with the gold medal. Canada knocked off Finland with a 3-2 overtime win in the final game. The win and fashion in how Team Canada did it most likely had something to do with the Rangers’ decision to hire Gallant instead of Rick Tocchet, the other interviewee for the job.
Drury had this to say while naming Gallant their new coach, “We are excited to announce that Gerard will be the next head coach of the New York Rangers,” Drury said. “His vast experience and success behind the bench at several levels make him the ideal choice to lead our team on the ice.” Rangers’ owner James Dolan added, “I would like to welcome Gerard to the New York Rangers. Gerard’s proven track record has made him one of the league’s most sought-after coaches, and we are fortunate to have him as part of the team. I have no doubt that he will play a critical role in helping us take the next steps to building a championship-caliber team.”
Lundkvist Finally Signed
In other Rangers news, Nils Lundkvist, the 20-year old prospect from Sweden, signed an entry-level contract earlier this month. New York’s 2018 first-round selection (28th overall) stands at 5-foot-11 and weighs 187 pounds. He was awarded the Salming Trophy for his play this season in the Swedish Elite League (SHL). The Salming Trophy is unique in the sense that the winner is chosen by the namesake of the award, Hockey Hall of Famer and Swedish native Börje Salming. The trophy goes to the best Swedish-born defenseman in the SHL.
Lundkvist had 14 goals, 18 assists and 30 penalty minutes during the 2020-21 SHL season. Career-wise in the SHL, he garnered 78 points in 166 games from the backend. He reached career highs in just about every category during this past season. Over the last two seasons, he led the SHL in goals by a defenseman with 25.
Humans of Hockey: Jeff Staple
NHL.com is putting out a new series called Humans of Hockey. It showcases people with unique stories about how they got into the game of hockey. In the second and most recent Humans of Hockey episode, they featured Jeff Staple. Staple, a New Yorker and Rangers fan told his story about his unlikely relationship with hockey.
Staple is into fashion and owns a Streetwear brand called Staple, or Staple Pigeon, and a Creative Ad Agency in New York. He grew up in Chinatown and fell in love with hockey because of the jerseys. He liked almost every NHL team’s jersey and especially loved the Rangers’ sweater. He also loved the goalie masks and the artwork involved with them. In high school, he started playing roller hockey with kids in his neighborhood. He, of course, played goalie so he could wear “the cool mask.” Staple would draw his own designs on the mask before he played.
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He said he experimented with ice hockey but never played in any type of league. When he went to NYU, he tried out for the club team and made it as the starting goalie. Staple says that experience “[Instilled] a lot of spirit for me that I still use to this day.” His company is doing a collaboration with Sherwood Hockey making designer sticks, jerseys and pucks. As a son of Chinese immigrants, Staple says that he hopes that if other minorities see him talking about hockey it will help draw open them up to the game as well.
Here’s to New Ventures
Gerard Gallant has a proven track record of success in the league, but will it translate to The Big Apple? Drury has wasted no time installing his imprint on the team. Will it work when it’s all said and done? Nils Lundkvist is signed but it’s not certain if he’ll make the big club next season. With the Rangers’ depth, odds are he’ll spend time with affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL. Let’s hope others, like Staple, are drawn to the Rangers and the game of hockey in their own unique ways.
Scott Blair is an author and journalist from Los Angeles, CA, by way of Detroit, MI. Uniquely diverse experiences have shaped Scott’s life in both of those places he calls home. He is now traveling the world, learning and growing as a human and a writer. He was a professional hockey player and then turned to the arts, becoming an actor for about 15 years. His passions turned to poetry, prose, politics, and journalism when he got tired of the Hollywood machine and what it represents. Scott is available for interviews and welcomes questions and topic ideas.