LAS VEGAS – It was an evening Gerard (Turk) Gallant will never forget.
And there was a lot more to it than the Summerside native being announced the 2017-18 season winner of the Jack Adams Award as National Hockey League coach of the year on Wednesday night after guiding the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in five games to the Washington Capitals.
“To have the opportunity to win awards in front of our fans was outstanding,” said Gallant, referring to the four awards presented to members of the Golden Knights in the city they call home. “It was a pretty special awards ceremony with the Humboldt Broncos’ kids there, the survivors and first responders from the Vegas (shooting) tragedy (on Oct. 1) and also the Parkland shooting in Florida were all represented.
“There were some sad moments, and it was unbelievable to see those kids there. It made for a very special awards ceremony.”
The Broncos’ team bus was involved in a fatal collision with a semi-trailer while en route to a playoff game on April 6. A total of 16 people died as result of the crash, and 13 were injured. Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan was posthumously named the inaugural recipient of the Willie O’Ree Community Spirit Award. Gallant admitted it was a very emotional moment when the Broncos came out on stage and Haugan’s wife, Christina, accepted the award.
“I didn’t really get a chance to talk to them (Broncos),” said Gallant in a phone interview with the Journal Pioneer on Thursday night. “We shook a lot of their hands and high-fived them.”
The Stoneman Douglas High School hockey team was also in attendance. The team won the Florida High School State title less than two weeks after 14 students and three staff members were killed in Parkland on Feb. 14.
Gallant agreed with the assessment that seeing the victims remembered, along with the two hockey teams and survivors and first responders of the Vegas shooting recognized, certainly puts things in perspective.
“It really does and a few guys said that in their speeches,” emphasized Gallant, 54. “The awards are all great and that, but you see what can happen in life today and you see these kids come out and respond.
“They are strong and are healing well and there is a lot of love for them. They were pretty excited to be there and get to meet the NHL players, and I thought it was a great night.”
As expected, and as evidenced by the voting results, Gallant was the runaway winner of the Jack Adams Award after guiding the Golden Knights to a Pacific Division title on the strength of a 51-24-7 (won-lost-overtime losses) record. Overall, Gallant finished with 525 points, including 102 first-place votes. The second-place finisher, Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins, received 153 points and the Colorado Avalanche’s Jared Bednar was third at 114 points.
“Obviously awards for coach of the year in the National Hockey League do not come around every day,” said Gallant, who was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award while with the Florida Panthers during the 2015-16 season. “It’s definitely an honour.”
In typical Gallant fashion, though, he was quick to deflect credit.
“To me, it just goes back to the season our team had,” continued Gallant. “We built the team from Day 1. Everybody played well and did their job.”
Gallant also talked about the outstanding work of his assistant coaches.
“Everybody who knows me as a coach knows I use my staff, and my five assistants all do a great job and they work real hard,” continued Gallant, who will return to P.E.I. for the summer following the Golden Knights’ four-day rookie/development camp that begins Tuesday. “It’s a real pleasure the way we all work together.
“Mike Kelly has been with me for a long time and everybody knows Mike, and he’s a real important guy with our staff. We brought in some new guys last year with Ryan McGill and Ryan Craig, and they worked exceptionally well, and are good people.
“Goalie coach Dave Prior does an unbelievable job with our goaltenders, and (video coach) Tommy Cruz was with us in Florida. I’m happy with my staff, they are all good people and we have a lot of fun. . . It was a heck of a year!”
NHL awards won by Vegas Golden Knights:
George McPhee – general manager of the year.
Gerard (Turk) Gallant – coach of the year.
Deryk Engelland – Mark Messier Leadership Award.
William Karlsson – Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (most gentlemanly player).