Perseverance pays off for Gallant

Joe MacIntyre
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Summerside native rewarded with NHL regular-season debut with Islanders

Brett Gallant deserves an enormous amount of credit.

The 25-year-old Summerside native recently made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders, and indications are that his four-game stint went well.

When you take a look at the career of Gallant, he certainly has paid his dues to make the big show. He has been as tough as they come in any league that he has played in, and obviously fears no one. Not including his last year with the Summerside Western Capitals of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League), the son of Mike (Pinky) and Patricia Gallant has had 187 fights over a nine-year career.

When he squared off against Montreal Canadiens tough guy George Parros in Montreal last week, one comes to realize just how far Gallant has come. Parros is amongst the toughest players in the game, and although it was not much of a scrap Gallant did not hesitate to drop the gloves with his much-bigger opponent.

It is a tough job being an NHL enforcer. When you realize just how hard it is, one cannot help but be extremely happy for a very likeable Gallant, who fulfilled a dream of playing in the NHL.

Where it goes from here for Gallant with the Islanders is up in the air at this point, as his contract expires at season's end.

Fighting is a part of hockey and always will be, and a guy like Gallant can make himself a good living as an NHL enforcer. Hopefully, that four-game stint with the Islanders will result in a new contract with the Islanders, and if not with the Isles then another NHL team.

A lot of teams like to protect their star players, and certainly the Islanders should with emerging star John Tavares.

Gallant has a huge fan following on P.E.I., and hopefully we will see him in the NHL next year.    

Championship curling

The Players’ Championship curling event wraps up at Eastlink Arena on Sunday, and fans are encouraged to take in the action. The best curlers in the world are here in Summerside, and it is not very often that Islanders get a chance to see the best live.  

When we see names like Howard, Jacobs, Jones, Homan and so on, we usually only see them on television or read about them on the sports pages. Now we have them right here in Summerside.  

There is a lot of money on the line, which will make for a great couple of days of curling. We will never see better on P.E.I.

It is another great event for P.E.I., and this is only possible with a great facility like Eastlink Arena. Islanders are always very supportive of these big events, and certainly large crowds this weekend will go a long ways in helping attract future events.

Junior hockey

To no one's surprise, the Kensington Moase Plumbing and Heating Vipers won their fifth straight Island Junior Hockey League championship a week ago, and have yet to suffer a loss this post-season.

That could change next week as the Vipers are off to the Don Johnson Memorial Cup Eastern Canadian junior B hockey championship tournament in Port Hawkesbury, N.S. The Vipers open play on Tuesday at noon against Nova Scotia, and will play single games every day leading up to next Saturday's semifinal and Sunday's championship game.

For the first time ever, Eastern Ontario will take part. This makes it a bit more interesting, but also puts a little tougher schedule in place. The Don Johnson Memorial Cup winner will have to play six games in six days.

The Vipers have won two of the last three Don Johnson Cups, including last year’s 4-3 win against the Sackville Blazers in Moncton, N.B.

Good luck to all those associated with the Vipers!

MHL final

The MHL is in the midst of its league final, and it’s shaping up to be a great series between the Truro Bearcats and the Dieppe Commandos. Game 3 goes in Truro, N.S., on Saturday night, with the series tied 1-1.

The Bearcats won 2-1 on home ice Tuesday, and Dieppe won Game 2 at home on Thursday 3-2.

Nathan MacKinnon

Nathan MacKinnon will no doubt win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. The Cole Harbor, N.S., native is having a very impressive season, and it looks like he will have a big playoff as well. He set up three goals in the Colorado Avalanche’s 4-3 come-from-behind overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.

Two of those assists came on the tying goal in the final minute of regulation time, and the overtime winner.

MacKinnon played in all 82 games this past regular season with the Avalanche, finishing fourth in team scoring with 63 points, including 24 goals. He was second on the Avalanche in the plus/minus department with a plus-20.

The six-foot, 182-pound MacKinnon was the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and he has certainly lived up to the expectations of a top draft pick. Many are already calling him one of the fastest players in hockey,

 and he certainly looks like the complete package. What is very impressive is the fact that he is still only 18-years-old and, does not turn 19 until September.

Move over Sidney Crosby, you have company at the top. Two superstars from a small place like Cole Harbor is something special. It is great to see these Maritime boys do well.

Stanley Cup favourites

I will leave the predictions to the experts, and I have heard enough analysis this past week of this year's NHL playoffs to last a lifetime.

When all is said and done, most feel the Boston Bruins are just too good and are the team to beat. Odds-makers have them as the 7-2 favourites to win the Stanley Cup, with St Louis at 6-1 and Pittsburgh at 7-1.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, both at 50-1, are the least likely to win this year's Cup.

Flashback

It was 25 years ago on April 19, 1989, that the Hemphill Pontiac Western Capitals were getting set to host Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Callaghan Cup Atlantic junior A hockey championship series with the Moncton Hawks.

The teams split the first two games at the Moncton Coliseum, with the Caps winning Game 1 by a 4-3 score and dropping game 2 by a 7-5 count.

The Caps won the series in five games, and both teams would go on to play in the 1989 Centennial Cup Canadian championship at old Cahill Stadium in Summerside.

Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to j-mac@eastlink.ca.

Organizations: NHL, New York Islanders, Summerside Western Capitals Maritime Junior Hockey League Montreal Canadiens Don Johnson Colorado Avalanche Island Junior Hockey League Minnesota Wild Boston Bruins St Louis Columbus Blue Jackets Dallas Stars Hemphill Pontiac Western Capitals

Geographic location: Summerside, Montreal, P.E.I. Cole Harbor Port Hawkesbury Nova Scotia Eastern Ontario Moncton Truro Pittsburgh Cahill Stadium Summerside.Joe MacIntyre

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