Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher was hit ‘hard’ by COVID-19

Watch as Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher tells the media that the NHL has to play an 82-game season even if there is a pause, and that the players want to go to work and have a purpose every day.

Brendan Gallagher said he feels great and energized after clearing COVID-19 protocols and rejoining the Montreal Canadiens.

Gallagher, who missed the past seven games while dealing with the virus, spoke with the media Sunday after returning to practice for the first time since he was placed in quarantine Dec. 2.

Gallagher, 29, detailed his experience with COVID-19 and in isolation, saying he wasn’t able to do anything for 10 days.

“The first couple days, I had some pretty tough symptoms,” Gallagher said. “It got me hard, so I was just laying there fighting with it, but after a few days I was good.”

What followed were eight days alone with his “thoughts and a little bit of boredom” while he played a lot of video games, watched movies and chatted on the phone to pass the time.

“It’s good to be out, back around the team,” said Gallagher, who is double vaccinated. “It took a while for me to get it, but now that you went through it, you kind of understand what everyone else has been going through and you move past it and move on.”

He added: “A little bit of a mental break as well, for me, and then to come back, I’m just looking forward to being around the guys and hopefully help us win some games.”

COVID-19 cases have surged across the league in recent days, in part due to the rise of the Omicron variant. The NHL has postponed all games for the Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers through the Christmas break due to outbreaks.

Montreal last played Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, scoring a 3-2 shootout win without any spectators at the Bell Centre at the request of Quebec public health officials. The Canadiens were scheduled to host the Bruins on Saturday night until the league shelved that matchup.

The Canadiens are slated to return to action Monday night, when they visit the New York Islanders and have one player, Artturi Lehkonen, in COVID-19 protocol.

Gallagher explained why players are concerned because of the quarantine rules and the holidays approaching.

“If you were to test positive, say we’re on the road, guys would miss Christmas, they’d be stuck in a hotel room in New York … and that’s tough,” he said. “A lot of guys have their families, and this is a good time of the year for everybody to spend that time with their families. I think that’s a concern, for sure, for a lot of guys, so we’re trying to be safe, obviously.”

However, Gallagher was hesitant to call for a complete pause to the season and said the players’ association and the league are continuing to work together on a solution to ensure the season continues.

“There’s some points in the schedule where we’re going to be able to make up games, so that’s possible,” Gallagher said. “You don’t want to be playing in front of empty buildings as well, like we had to do last game. If you can move those games to a chance where you’re able to have a full building, and if the answer is take a couple weeks off in order to be able to continue to play, obviously (do it), but we don’t want to shut it down completely.

“We’re like everyone else in the world right now, we want to work. Everyone wants to feel that purpose and to feel that opportunity to go earn your paycheque every day. I’m sure the rest of the world is feeling the same thing. We’re doing everything we can to work through this, find solutions. Obviously, keep guys safe, but we feel like it’s possible and we’re keeping all those options open. Maybe if there’s potential to shut down — I think some teams have been shut down — but if you’re able to play the game, then play the game.”

Montreal’s victory over Philadelphia snapped a seven-game losing streak as the team is last in the Eastern Conference with a 7-21-3 record after a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Gallagher, who has four goals and six assists in 23 games, admitted it hasn’t been a great season, but reminds himself for motivation that he’s getting to play a game he loves for a living.

“It’s stressful at times, there’s a lot of pressure, and it’s something that a lot of people care about, not just ourselves, but we’re playing a game,” he said. “We get a chance to go out here, compete against another team, trying to win a game and put a smile on your face.

“Obviously, the results haven’t been there. We’ve had a lot of things to deal with right now with COVID, but you just kind of put all that aside and when you get the opportunity to go play, you play and try to enjoy it the best you can.”

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