MONTREAL—If you’ve ever watched Brendan Gallagher cook eggs (and I implore you to), then you know he’d have been in a desperate situation before long had he been alone and confined to his Montreal condo for weeks on end, waiting for the COVID-19 virus to dissipate and for the National Hockey League to announce it was resuming the 2019-20 season.
Let’s just say I wasn’t too surprised to learn that Gallagher was quick to book himself a plane ticket back to British Columbia after NHL teams told players they were clear to leave their NHL cities to return home.
On Wednesday, from his fully stocked house in Tsawwassen, Gallagher took time out of his busy schedule of re-watching Friday Night Lights in its entirety on Netflix to chat with Sportsnet about his experience traveling, his teammates and what they’ve been up to, his family, and a few other things I’ll get to in some pieces planned for next week.
Regarding that flight home on Tuesday, which Gallagher paid over $900 CAD for, the Edmonton native said it was a pretty unique experience.
“I was pretty cautious,” the 27-year-old started. “I didn’t bring this stuff, but everyone around me had masks and were wiping everything down. I asked some people to borrow a Lysol wipe so I could wipe down my seat. Everyone was really cautious. You kept your distance. Nobody was sitting in any of the middle seats.
“When I landed here in Vancouver, they had masks, so I grabbed one of those because you don’t want to give this to anyone if you are carrying it. I wore the mask until I got home. It’s one of those things where you just have to assume the worst; you assume you’re carrying it and that you don’t want to give it to anyone else if you are. You take those precautions.”
Roughly 40 minutes later, Gallagher was home, enjoying the familiar views of the golf course he lives on and basking in the bounty of toilet paper his mom, Della, filled the house with.
“Pretty much everything I need, she took care of,” Gallagher said. “She cleaned everything in my place, wiped everything down, came in and stocked my fridge. I pretty much have everything I need to have here.”
It was fairly obvious from his tone that this was a welcome change from having to fend for himself in Montreal.
Reflecting on the days leading up to his departure, Gallagher couldn’t help but laugh.
“It was pretty weird. Bizarre, in fact,” he said regarding last Thursday’s events, when the NHL paused its season, and those that followed. “I think it was the night before when the (NBA) basketball player, Rudy Gobert (of the Utah Jazz), tested positive for the COVID virus. Just reading on Twitter that night, you figured some announcement was coming from the NHL. So we showed up at the rink the next day and kind of wondered what was going on, but they made it real quick. We got there and had a meeting basically telling us to go home. At that point, the NHL had just canceled pre-game skates. So we went home and we were still getting ready to play the game (against the Buffalo Sabres) not really knowing if we were going to play the game. We got the news a little later that day and from there on it was, ‘Nobody come to the rink, nobody do anything.’
“It’s our job now to lay low and stay at home, so we all went and got supplies that we needed for our houses. I think we all picked up Call of Duty or downloaded it. We started playing it together online and each day was kind of the same thing—you wake up, you don’t do a whole lot. I’d go for a walk, but it was still cold, so it was usually short. And then I’d go back and take care of some stuff around the house, find some chores I would otherwise never get around to doing, find ways to kill time that way.”
Now that he’s home in Tsawwassen, Gallagher intends on being slightly more productive.
He left his Playstation in Montreal because, as he said, “I was so bad at Call of Duty the guys are better off without me.” And he intends to get into summer-training mode with his dad (and personal trainer), Ian, as soon as he’s been secluded long enough to not put anyone else at risk.
Regarding his teammates and their significant others, he said Carey and Angela Price have gone to Tri-Cities, Wash., where Angela’s family lives, that Jeff and Julie Petry left for Michigan, and that Shea Weber and his family are still in the Montreal area for the moment.
Gallagher admitted he was slightly concerned for the Europeans, who might have a harder time getting home.
“Lehky (Artturi Lehkonen) is considering going back home to Finland with Armie (Joel Armia). I know their borders are kind of shut down, so it might be a challenge,” he said. “Tuna (Tomas Tatar) isn’t going home (Slovakia has closed its major airports in Bratislava, Kosice and Poprad).”
And Gallagher added it didn’t make much sense for Jordan Weal to head back to North Vancouver with the virus spreading at a faster rate in B.C. than in any other province in Canada.
The two-time 30-goal scorer is keeping tabs on everyone through the team’s group chat, which he said is pretty active, and he mentioned we shouldn’t be too concerned for him in Tsawwassen, where he’s “very isolated.”
The good news is, he’s not alone.
After our 30-minute conversation, Gallagher drove to collect his 18-year-old sister, Bree, from the airport. She’ll stay in quarantine with him for a couple of weeks before returning to their parents.
Meanwhile, Gallagher said his 21-year-old brother Nolan is training to be a fireman in Point Roberts, Wash., and he shared that his 29-year-old sister, Erin, is doing her part for the greater good in more ways than just staying at home.
“She works at a stem cell company here in Vancouver, so she’s got a unique job. She’s working from home and their company is basically—if I understand this right— they’re basically sending off samples to companies trying to come up with a vaccine for COVID. She’s playing a little bit of a role in this thing, so every day I text her and tell her to get her act together and figure this thing out.”
He’s also staying in regular contact with his parents, with his mom recovering from a back injury and his dad “going insane” as a result of feeling restless.
Gallagher wanted Canadiens fans to know he misses them, too, and also wanted to share an important message:
“There are things that are more important right now than hockey,” he said. “I think this is something that the world is coming together on right now, and you can see there’s places where it’s bad. There’s also places like Wuhan, (China), where it started, where it’s starting to get better. So you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We just have to go through the steps, go through the process and take care of each other. Make sure you listen to the medical professionals and before you know it we’ll get back to doing what we love. But for the time being, you just need to be smart and selfless and do the things that they’re asking us to do.”
Gallagher is doing his part and, thankfully, he’s left the home cooking to his much more qualified mother.