Every NHL head coach has forged a path that has taken him to one of the 31 top coaching spots in the league. Gerard Gallant, the first head coach of the brand new Vegas Golden Knights, is no different. In fact, Gallant’s hockey career began when he was a teenager and played for the Summerside Western Crystals, a junior A hockey league in his native Prince Edward Island, Canada. From there, he played his way into the NHL and was selected by the Detroit Red Wings, where he played for nine seasons.
Once Gallant retired from playing hockey, his sights settled on coaching the sport. He got started just one season later as head coach of his hometown team, the Summerside Capitals of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, and from there, he coached several teams in many leagues in two countries as he made his way to his current gig in Vegas.
Journey to the Vegas Golden Knights
Gallant left hockey – as a player – after the 1994-95 season due to a back injury. His first coaching job with the Capitals lasted over three seasons, and he led the team to the ultimate prize, a 1997 Royal Bank Cup. After departing Summerside, he served as an assistant coach for the Fort Wayne Komets, who were a part of the International Hockey League (IHL). He then took a similar position with the Louisville Panthers, who were a part of the American Hockey League (AHL). Both the IHL (now defunct) and AHL are considered minor league hockey and often serve as the last step for a player before he ascends to the NHL.
Gallant entered the NHL as an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001. He remained in this position for three seasons and a part of a fourth until he was promoted mid-season in 2004 after head coach Doug MacLean resigned. He stayed on as head coach for the entire 2004-05 season but was fired midway through the 2005-06 season due to a sluggish start on the part of the Blue Jackets.
In 2007, Team Canada named Gallant assistant coach for the Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships. He then joined the staff of the New York Islanders, where he again served as head coach until 2009. He then took a new opportunity with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The Sea Dogs, during his tenure, had a stellar record (159-34-9) and won two league championships (2011 and 2012).
Following his Sea Dogs job, he then headed back to the NHL to the Montreal Canadiens as an assistant coach for two seasons. He helped lead the team to the playoffs each of those two seasons and then was hired by the Florida Panthers as head coach. While manning the Panthers’ helm, the team had a franchise-best 103 points and clinched its second division title.
For Gallant’s next professional move and at the end of the road (so far, anyway), we need to head a few years back (2016, to be exact). To much fanfare, the NHL awarded Vegas with a franchise of their own, the league’s 31st, which began play in the 2017-18 season. A year later, Gallant was named the first head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, who reached the postseason their first year, much to the delight of owner Bill Foley – who said the team would play the playoffs within the first three years and hoist the Stanley Cup within the first six.
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