Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher has high praise for Marc Bergevin

After the Canadiens lost 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks Monday night at the Bell Centre, Brendan Gallagher was asked for his thoughts about former general manager Marc Bergevin, who was fired on Sunday.

Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher has high praise for Marc Bergevin
© Provided by The Gazette “His only goal, every single move he made for a decade was to help us players have success on the ice and give us a chance to win and that’s something that I can’t thank him for enough,” the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher said about former GM Marc Bergevin.

Gallagher responded with an answer that lasted more than two minutes.

“First off, I know he released a statement saying thank you to just about everyone,”  Gallagher said. “But from my standpoint he’s a man I can’t thank enough. I’ve been with him close to a decade. I came up my first year in the league, there’s probably not a lot of general managers that would have wanted to keep an undersized fifth-round pick around that he really had no connection with. But he gave me a shot and ever since then he’s always been someone that I was able to count on. Whether you’re struggling on the ice, off the ice, he was someone you could have a real conversation with. He was somebody that no matter when he spoke or you spoke to him he listened and he genuinely cared. His only goal, every single move he made for a decade was to help us players have success on the ice and give us a chance to win and that’s something that I can’t thank him for enough.

“We had some really good seasons, we had some tough seasons around here,” Gallagher added, barely stopping to take a breath during his answer. “We always followed up those tough seasons with solutions because he was able to sit there and gather our opinions and really trusted us and really listened to us. He was just someone that you could count on. And when you think about what he did here for nine-and-a-half years — first of all, that’s an accomplishment in its own in this market. Not a lot of general managers get to say that. But we had some really good, really good, competitive teams. Made a conference final, made a Stanley Cup Final and, like I said, he’s just somebody that you can’t thank enough. The passion that he showed — I know you guys got to see a few of his speeches — we got that a lot. It meant a lot to us as players. The loyalty that he showed to us, everything he did was to help us players have success. I know from our standpoint every time I get the chance to see him I’ll make sure that I say it. But I hope everyone in this city understands just how much he cared about this organization, how much he cared about this team. Going forward, I hope he knows how much we appreciated it.”

There’s no doubt Bergevin will appreciate Gallagher’s answer.

Pierre Gauthier was the team’s general manager when the Canadiens selected Gallagher in the fifth round (147th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. Bergevin took over as GM two years later and was in charge when Gallagher made his NHL debut in 2012.

“He’s just somebody that I trust and I know he’s somebody that obviously cares about us as players individually,” Gallagher said about Bergevin. “He wanted us to have success, but he also wanted us to be happy off the ice. You guys didn’t hear about a lot of it — a lot of the stuff that went on. There’s some tough times as players that you go through and he was always someone that whenever I needed to chat he was always there and he was real, he was honest. It always seemed to be the right thing to say or right thing to hear. He always helped me find my game or helped me off the ice. Whatever it was, he was just somebody that I could always count on. It’s a relationship that we’ll continue to have going forward.”

It was Bergevin who signed Gallagher to a six-year, US$39-million contract extension last year that kicked in this season. During his news conference to announce the signing, Bergevin twice almost came to tears while talking about what Gallagher means to the Canadiens.

“This guy is just everything you want about a hockey player,” Bergevin said at the time. “That’s what I love about him. There’s not many Brendan Gallaghers in the National Hockey League. He’s a special one. You love him on your team and you play against him you just don’t like him. He’s special. … He’s a hockey player through his bones and that’s what I love about him.”

Gallagher still remembers that day.

“It meant a lot,” he said about Bergevin’s reaction. “First of all, I know you guys know a little bit but it was a pretty damn intensive negotiation. I wasn’t on those phone calls, but between my agent and the team. He’s a hell of a negotiator and everyone who has been through it says the same thing. There were some ups and downs with that as well. One thing that I really appreciated was in the middle of it where it seemed to maybe be going off the rails a little bit Berg gave me a call and we just had a talk and we discussed what was going on. Those are the things that can sometimes get lost in translation when the agent is dealing with the management. Berg just gave me a call and we just talked about it. Those are things that I don’t think a lot of players get the opportunity to have.

“I just can’t thank him enough,” Gallagher added. “It meant a lot, but I was very aware of how much he cared about us and myself and it was definitely reciprocated back to him. … I’m really thankful I got to play under him as my boss for close to a decade. You know he’s going to go on to great things. He’ll get another shot here because he deserves it. We’re just thankful for the work that he did.”

Ready for a rebuild?

Canadiens owner/president Geoff Molson said Monday he’s willing to consider a rebuild if that’s what Jeff Gorton, the new executive vice-president of hockey operations, and whoever the next GM will be believe that’s the best thing to do going forward.

“I’m not afraid of that word and I think our fans wouldn’t be afraid of that word, either,” Molson said.

But at age 29 that’s a word Gallagher might be afraid of hearing.

“This is my 10th season now,” Gallagher said when asked about the possibility of a rebuild and whether he’d want to be around for it. “I’ve always come in with the expectations to win. I felt like my teammates had the same goal, I felt like management had the same goal and sometimes organizations go through those things. I guess those are conversations that would probably need to be had down the road. But for me, I play this game to win. It’s really the only way I can enjoy it.

“You don’t always have to win every game, but the important thing is I need to feel like we’re trying to win,” Gallagher added. “I need to feel like it’s important. If that’s the decision that they want to make, those are probably conversations that you have to have going forward. But for now, it’s not really something I’ve put a lot of thought in. I still feel like this is an organization I love dearly … that’s probably not being strong enough with it. I love this city, I love everything about it. … It would definitely be a tough decision and, like I said, a conversation that you have to have. But I love being here and that’s first and foremost.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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