Former UNB, Fog Devils D-man shines for Grand Falls-Windsor
© — Photo by Rod Bennett/Action Sports Shots
Twenty-six-year-old Luke Gallant's made a number of key life decisons in recent years and, so far, they've all worked out pretty well.
The latest, which saw him obtain a position with City Financial in St. John's and join the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NSHL), are a couple that have paid off.
The Bedford, N.S., native who went home for Christmas, said he's "pretty happy" with those decisions.
"Whenever you're winning, it's always enjoyable," Gallant said with a chuckle.
The first-place Cataracts, off to a 13-1 start, are in Harbour Grace for a pair of games Jan. 4-5 against the Eastlink CeeBee Stars (5-8) when the NSHL resumes.
The Western Royals (6-8) will take on the Gander Flyers (4-8) Jan. 5-6 in Deer Lake in the other league action to kick off the new year.
Gallant said he followed the Herder Memorial Trophy championship then he was in the province playing for the St. John's Fog Devils, and is looking forward to hoisting the trophy for the Cataracts and their fans.
Gallant played two seasons for the former St. John's club in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, so hockey in Newfooundland is nothing new to him. When the chance to play a competitive brand of senior hockey came about following his junior and collegiate career, Gallant jumped at the chance.
He said he decided to play for the Cataracts after getting "a good vibe" from team management.
"It seemed like an organization that teated its players well, and I also knew Wes (Welcher) and Ryan (Graham) were with the club," he said talking about two of his teammates when he toiled with the Fog Devils in 2005-06, 2006-07.
He said knowing Welcher and Graham, who hail from Mount Pearl and Paradise, made his decision to join the Cats a little easier.
Gallant said adjusting to the NSHL team came easy.
"I got to know all of the guys pretty quickly - after the first practice, really," he said. "Like most Newfoundlanders, everyone on and around the team is friendly."
As far as being reunited withe two former Fog Devils, Gallant said there's always something that comes up about their junior hockey days on the long bus trips from St. John's to Grand Falls-Windsor during the season.
"I've got a lot of good memories playing for the Fog Devils. And I also remember playing against Ryan when I was with the University of New Brunswick and he was with Acadia," noted the six-foot-two defenceman who has six goals and 18 points in 14 games with the Cats so far this season.
"When you are comfortable with your teammates, it shows on the ice," added Gallant. "Those two (Graham and Welcher) are two good guys."
Cataracts coach Shane Lukinchuk said bringing in Gallant to a situation that included a couple former teammates couldn't help but be a positive for the team in general.
"Anytime you have an import coming in who is familiar with a couple of guys on our team, it's certainly going to help.
"And it's not so much the chemistry on the ice," the Cats' coach said, "but for the chemistry in the dressing room."
Lukinchuk said although Graham and Welcher have missed some games do to work commitments, when the trio has been available, "they play really well.
"Luke plays big minutes for us," said Lukinchuk. "He plays in all situations - power play, penalty kill, lots against other team's scoring leaders. That's something he's been used to his who life.
"In junior and college, he's always been a go-to guy, so he's used to a lot of minutes. He likes that responsibility and he takes it and runs with it."
Gallant, who was a member of the Nova Scotia Canada Games team where he played forward on a line with Sidney Crosby, decided to attend the University of New Brunswick after playing the Q. He's had opportunities to turn pro, including several offers to play in the ECHL and a few to play in the Central Hockey League and in Europe.
"My wife (Christina) and I took a step back and looked at the big picture," he explained.
In opting to play for Varsity Reds of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference, Gallant decided on a path that would prove mutually beneficial to both his wife and himself.
"Inside I knew that if I was going to dedicate my life to playing pro hockey, I wasn't going to be happy," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I had a great time at UNB, but it was very demanding to play and go to school and it took a lot out of me, particularly in my final year when I was going for my MBA (Master of Business Administration)."
Playing pro, he said, would have been a difficult obligation for eight months out of year.
As it turned out, Gallant was as good a student as he is a hockey player.
He was only the fifth UNB hockey player ever to be named both a CIS All-Canadian all-star and a CIS All-Academic, helping the Varsity Reds win two national championships and earning CIS tournament MVP honours in the 2010-11 campaign.
He said working in Newfoundland and playing a good calibre of hockey on the weekend made more sense to him in the end.
It also made sense to come to this province, he said, because his wife wanted to take a paramedic program and the one offered at the College of North Atlantic (CONA) was the most attractive in Atlantic Canada.
"This is a perfect fit," said Gallant. "She put her life on hold for five years for me when I was going to school. It's only fair for me to return the favour while she goes back to school.
"You never know what road life will take you down, but I'm definitely happy with the choices I've made so far."