LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Former Vegas Golden Knights Coach Gerard Gallant sat down with FOX5 for his first TV interview since his firing from the team on Jan. 15. The dismissal shook the hockey world and caught Gallant by surprise in the middle of the season.
After two-and-a-half years raising Las Vegas' first major league hockey team, VGK decided to part ways with Gallant, opting to hire rival coach Peter DeBoer of the San Jose Sharks. Gallant spoke to FOX5 at his Las Vegas home Saturday morning.
NEWSThe Golden Knights have made the following coaching changes:Gerard Gallant & Mike Kelly have been relieved of their coaching dutiesPeter DeBoer has been named head coachhttps://t.co/rQsULKgYzR— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 15, 2020
"I was a little surprised obviously, I didn't think that was going to happen," Gallant said. "When I came in, I thought we were going to talk about something different. When I heard the news, it was really disappointing."
But where did it all begin? Las Vegas was awarded an expansion franchise to bring hockey to the desert in June 2016. Five months later in November 2016, team owner Bill Foley announced the team's official name. Five months after that? Gallant joined VGK as head coach on April 13, 2017.
"I had two and a half years where it was great. We had a great team. It was a lot of fun," Gallant said. "I enjoyed what I was doing. I was surprised and then I get disappointed. Then you get pissed off, so you go through those stages."
Gallant traveled to his native Moncton, New Brunswick the day of the announcement, enabling him to take his mind off "all this stuff."
But despite suffering a four gaming losing streak, Gallant had no inkling that he'd be fired.
"It wasn't good. We didn’t play good hockey at all. Those three games at home, they were bad," Gallant said.
Gallant believed the meeting would revolve around turning the season around. Instead, he was forced out.
"We're in Ottawa, we'll play the next night and get it back going again," Gallant said. "There was nothing that led up to this, that said I'm in trouble we need to get going here."
MOURNING, REMINISCING AND MOVING ON
Despite the frustration, Gallant said he understood the business move.
"There are a lot of good coaches in hockey and a lot have gotten fired this year," Gallant said. "I was upset for 7-10 days. Now, you move by that, go to the next level and try and get ready if there is another opportunity."
VGK had a "magical run" the first year by making it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
"I think that year one, it was an amazing year," Gallant said. "Truthfully, for two and a half years, everything was great. Seven minutes to the practice rink, 20 minutes down to the big arena, the fan support was incredible."
GO! KNIGHTS! GO!
"I've been in the NHL for a long time coaching and playing. Fortunate to do that, but the way fans treat every goal, the warm-ups, they're clapping, they're cheering, the building was a mad house down there. The fans are amazing. It's astounding (that) they've kept it going for two and a half years and every game. It's still unbelievable."
LEAVING A LEGACY AND NEXT STEPS
"I was pretty fortunate to be the first coach ever for this franchise," Gallant said. "It was the most fun I had in hockey. We did a real good job and I loved every minute of it. I really did."
What's next? For now, Gallant is relaxing with family and waiting to see what's next in store. He'll seize opportunity where he sees fit and rely on his agents to find his next deal.
"There's only 31, soon to be 32 teams in the NHL so as a head coach," Gallant said. "We'll see what happens down the road, but the last thing I want it starting a bunch of rumors because there are other coaches out there, you don't need that right now."
TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
Following the news, Gallant received an influx of positive thoughts and support from his team.
"My phone never stopped for about a week, probably," Gallant said. Got a lot of texts. (A) few guys called. Ran into Marchy at the airport in Toronto. (A) lot of good people."
Gallant will always be a hockey fan, but seeing team grow up without him will be a challenge, Gallant said.
"There will come a day I'll turn it on and can watch it, but it's difficult. I'm not going to lie," Gallant said of watching his former team play. "Everything was good. Hockey was great. I'll miss it."