Sun May 20 03:50pm EDT
SHAWINIGAN, Que.— As a player, with more than 600 games in the NHL, there wasn't much that would cause Gerard Gallant to back down. And that's still true now that he's head coach of the defending Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs.
On Saturday night, after his QMJHL champions were defeated 5-3 by the London Knights in their opening game of the tournament, Gallant was critical over the officiating provided by his own league. He was particularly incensed over a double-minor for roughing given to Sea Dogs captain Jonathan Huberdeau late in the game with his team trailing by a goal.
"I watched the penalties," said Gallant in the post-game press conference. "I've been complaining all year. I've been in the Quebec league for three years and I've been complaining for three years. We always get the short end of the stick and I'm tired of it, I really am. How does Huberdeau get a penalty at the end of the game for four minutes for roughing? I watched that (Danick) Gauthier slash — I mean give me a break. I'm not taking (anything) away from London, they were the better team. But I'm so tired of that. You show your frustration at the end of the game, I don't want to do that but it's been over and over again, so I'm tired of it."
On Sunday afternoon, Gallant said he had yet to hear from the Canadian Hockey League about a possible suspension. Regardless, he had no regrets about his outburst about the state of officiating in the QMJHL.
UPDATE: Gallant was fined $500 by the CHL for "unprofessional" comments.
"I wasn't happy," said Gallant. "It's just regrets about the way our team played, that's all. I didn't like the way our team played, but besides what I said — it's the truth. Sometimes you shouldn't say things that you say, but that's the way I felt and it has been built up over some time here in the last while as I said (last night). It's all part of it. I was frustrated and it happened to come out.
"I don't think I said anything that should get us fined. I just said the truth."
There's a feeling — admitted publicly or not — that many of the Maritime teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League get the "short-end of the stick" as Gallant phrased it in his comments last night.
"I don't want to comment on that," said Gallant about any bias, perceived or real against the east coast teams. "But I wouldn't back away from what I said."
When pressed about whether there's general consensus amongst the Maritime clubs that they're at a disadvantage against their Quebec counterparts, Gallant paused briefly before quietly saying: "Yeah, there is."
The contention over league bias was also a hot-button topic during the QMJHL playoffs when the Halifax Mooseheads captain, Cameron Critchlow, was given an automatic one-game suspension for intentionally removing the helmet of Rimouski Oceanic forward Jonathan Lavoie during a fight. The Mooseheads disputed the call, though the decision was upheld by QMJHL disciplinary prefect Raymond Bolduc. Critchlow missed the next game — a pivotal Game 6 — and the Mooseheads lost the series to the Oceanic.
Buzzing The Net's Neate Sager spoke with Halifax GM Cam Russell at the time and wrote about what was seen by some as — yet again — the QMJHL playing favourites.
It also will give people pause to wonder if the optics — Critchlow being a key player for Halifax and Rimouski representing the best chance to have a QMJHL team in the final at a time when the league is trying to generate buzz for next month's MasterCard Memorial Cup in Shawinigan — affected the decision.
"We've heard that all before but it's something I just can't comment on," Mooseheads GM Cam Russell said by phone Sunday, a few hours before the Halifax-Rimouski puck drop.
"People think of all sorts of things and there will be lots of different opinions and different ideas."
If you are going to finally air your grievances about the QMJHL's seemingly double standards for Maritime teams, what better place to do it at a Memorial Cup hosted in Shawinigan Que., with media from across Canada in attendance? For Gallant — even if he is fined — the price might be worth it in the long run.
Gallant also noted he had yet to hear about a possible suspension for Huberdeau for an elbowing penalty he took early in the game. He said as far as he was concerned Huberdeau only deserved the two minute penalty he was assessed though, he noted the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League handle their suspensions differently.
"Sometimes in the 'Q' it's a life sentence for elbowing," responded one French reporter.
"Well, that just depends what team it is," said Gallant, without missing a beat.