Great opportunity awaits Gallant

Joe MacIntyre
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A great opportunity lies ahead for Gerard (Turk) Gallant, the newly-appointed head coach of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers.

As is often said, patience is a virtue and that may be the case for Gallant. Obviously being let go as head coach by the Columbus Blue Jackets back in November 2006 was tough for Gallant, but it provided an opportunity for the personable Summerside native to get a fresh start.

It gave Gallant some very valuable family time as well as an opportunity to sit back, recharge his batteries and look to what the future holds.

It was a future that turned out to be a successful three-year run as head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, followed by a two-year experience – and a pleasure it must have been – as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens. Since those Columbus days, Gallant, who also spent a season as an assistant coach under Ted Nolan with the New York Islanders, has experienced a lot of winning hockey. That experience is so important as he takes on the challenge of turning the Panthers into a winning club.

Obviously Gallant had other offers for a return to the pro game since those Columbus days, but he was patient and waited for the right opportunity. The Florida job is a perfect fit.

The Panthers have nowhere to go but up after finishing 29th in the 30-team NHL  last season, so Gallant takes over at a good time. Although there will be pressure to win in Florida, it will not be near the same as it would be in other NHL cities. He will be given time to develop a contender, and there is no doubt he will do just that.

Florida general manager Dale Tallon has a great eye for getting talented players, and one just has to look at the Chicago Blackhawks as proof. Tallon was Chicago’s general manager when the Hawks drafted both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Tallon signed Patrick Sharpe and Marian Hossa amongst others, and we all know how important those players are to the Blackhawks. Tallon turned the Hawks into a championship team, and although it may be a few years to do the same in Florida, there is no doubt that Tallon will get the talent and Gallant will get the best out of that talent.

Both Gallant and Tallon are winners, and there is no doubt in my mind that will continue in Florida. It is a great opportunity for Gallant with the Panthers and there are many out there who are very proud and extremely  happy for "Turk.”   

Harness racing

The 2014 Governor’s Plate is just three weeks away, and this year’s purse will feature an extra $5,000 in purse money. That means $25,000 will be up for grabs when Summerside's signature race goes to post on Saturday, July 19.

That extra money should have been put aside for a race later this summer. It is unlikely the extra money in this year’s Plate will attract any better horses, and I think the best in the Maritimes will be here whether it’s a $20,000 or $25,000 purse.

There will not be any more bet on the big race because of the purse. However, if another big race was held later on it would certainly attract a larger bet for that particular card.

We  get to  see the region's best horses only for what is now known as Lobster Festival week in Summerside, and that is disappointing. In my opinion the track would get a better bang for its buck with an additional race, or as the saying goes "don't put your eggs all in one basket.”

The extra $5,000 comes from all those millions being blown on the 2014 celebration.  

NHL hockey

It will be a very interesting week ahead in the NHL with the amateur draft this weekend and free-agency signings beginning on Tuesday.

A lot of player movement is expected over the next week, and most feel there will be a lot more trades than usual. A lot of teams have salary cap issues, with Boston and Pittsburgh two of the many teams that may unload some pretty good talent to give themselves a little more cap space.

As far as free agency goes, there looks to be more quantity than quality. That will lead to over payment for average hockey players, and in turn drive up salaries even more.

NHL revenues are at an all-time high, and that will lead to an increase in the salary cap that stood at $64.3 million per team this past season. The new cap is expected to come in around the $70-million range per team.  

Canada Day

Canada Day is the unofficial beginning of summer on P.E.I., and the forecast would indicate that summer will indeed arrive with very warm temperatures over the next few days.

The warm weather could not have come at a better time with all the extra activities taking place on P.E.I. over the next few days. It will be a lively weekend in Summerside and area over the next few days, with upwards of 5,000 motorcyclists here for Atlanticade 2014. Having that many extra people around for the five-day event will be a big boost to the Island economy.

A lot of people are expected in Charlottetown to celebrate Canada Day with the start of many concerts over the next two months. It will be a big year for tourism on P.E.I., or at least that is what our government is looking for with all that extra money invested in the 2014 celebrations.

For a lot of us, it is just great to have some warm weather after a harsh winter and cool spring. Have a great Canada Day!

Flashback

On this date 20 years ago in 1994, the Silliker’s-Greco Twins edged the Kensington Greco Chiefs 5-4 in a Labatt’s Summerside and Area Men's Softball League game at Queen Elizabeth Park.

C.J. Gallant delivered the big blow for the Twins as his two-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning scored the tying and winning runs.

Jason Gallant (2-3) and Greg MacDonald (1-3, triple) were the top hitters for the Twins.

Peter MacDonald (2-3) and Steven Brander (1-2) were Kensington's leading batters.

Duke Cormier was the winning pitcher, and Darrell Thibeau suffered the loss.

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

Organizations: NHL, Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets Chicago Blackhawks Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Montreal Canadiens New York Islanders Labatt Softball League

Geographic location: Summerside, Florida, Chicago Canada Boston Pittsburgh P.E.I. Iceland Charlottetown Queen Elizabeth Park Kensington

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