Former Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said the reason he took a taxi after his Sunday firing was because he didn’t want to wait for a car service that the team had called.
Gallant spoke with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and said the situation, which went viral after photos of him waiting at the PNC Arena loading dock surfaced, wasn’t as bad as it looked.
“I know everyone has seen the photos of me getting into the cab,” Gallant said via Friedman. “(Panthers manager of team services) Stiles Burr is a good, solid kid. What happened is getting blown out of proportion. They called a car service, but I did not want to wait.”
When the Panthers fired Gallant, they did so after the team lost 3-2 at the Carolina Hurricanes.
Following the move, Gallant was seen with his bags packed outside PNC Arena. The game at the Hurricanes was the first of a six-game road trip for the Panthers and they were headed to Chicago where they played the Blackhawks on Tuesday.
On a Monday conference call with reporters, the Panthers made sure to defend how they handled Gallant’s travel after his dismissal.
“I know what the optics look like, but what you didn’t see was I was out there with him,” general manager/interim coach Tom Rowe said. “We were having a conversation in the parking lot.”
Added Rowe, “I think you can appreciate the situation after the game. It was pretty hectic. I wanted to get Gerard away from the locker room and so we went outside. We had a car service coming to pick him up because we were heading to Chicago. We weren’t heading back to Florida.”
The Panthers fired Gallant, a 2015-16 finalist for the Jack Adams Award, after an 11-10-1 start. This came less than a year after the team had a franchise record 103 points and won the Atlantic Division. Late last year the Panthers took a hard turn towards an analytical approach with their hockey team and Gallant reportedly held a different vision for the Panthers than their management.
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