Saint John Sea Dogs break 'soft' myth
RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
|Saint John Sea Dogs Eric Gelinas (L) and Michael Kirkpatrick (R) celebrate a goal by Nathan Beaulieu (C) during the third period of their round-robin Memorial Cup ice hockey game against the Mississauga St.Michael's Majors in Mississauga May 20, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese
MISSISSAUGA -- The Saint John Sea Dogs don’t just shatter that old myth of the “physically soft” Quebec league champions at the Memorial Cup.
They bench-check it, face-wash it, and if you want, they‘ll be more than happy to mix it up in a post-whistle scrum.
The Dogs inherit a large portion of their personality from head coach Gerard Gallant. Heavily-bearded captain Mike Thomas wore a big grin when he heard there’s YouTube evidence of the ex-Detroit Red Wings forward duking it out with Owen Sound bench boss Mark Reeds 25 years or so ago on NHL ice.
“That’s pretty cool,” the 6-foot-1, 212-pounder said.
Gallant’s Sea Dogs and Reeds’ Attack — the tournament’s remaining unbeaten teams — meet Monday night at the Hershey Centre.
Reeds recalled the Gallant encounter. His OHL champion Attack won’t let him hear the end of it.
“I think the guys had it on the bus and (veteran forward Andrew) Shaw was giving me heck for it,” the former St. Louis Blues player said. “I didn’t do too well in that one. I think I got a few shots in there but I didn’t get the win.
“I’ve been able to get to know Gerard over the years. We have mutual friends and he’s just a quality person.”
Gallant played a couple seasons on Steve Yzerman’s line and Reeds usually had to check them. They were destined to lock horns.
“We were both little guys out there,” Gallant said, “and I know we played against each other a lot with Detroit and St. Louis in the same (old Norris) division. We had some battles. Reedsy is just a character person.
“You can see it in the way his team works hard all the time for him and pays attention to the defensive details.”
And the Sea Dogs? Gallant preaches grit but that doesn’t mean they have to punch people out.
“I demand they’re hard on the puck all the time,” he said. “I will never demand they fight. That’s the way I played the game but you can’t tell 17-year-olds to 20-year-olds to do that. The kids know themselves when something has to be done. We never try to initiate it. Now, don’t get me wrong. We have some tough players here and if the other team wants to start something, our guys won’t back down.
“There are some tough teams in the Q and we’re right up there.”
Saint John forward Mike Kirkpatrick said the 21-year-old Thomas is probably the toughest player in junior hockey right now. Not many teams try to take cheap shots at top prospect Jonathan Huberdeau.
“If I was going to fight someone,” Sea Dogs teammate Zack Phillips added, “the last one I’d pick is Mike Thomas. And we got Alex Beauregard (from Rouyn-Noranda) in a trade this year and he does it all. He fights and he scored in double overtime for us (to win the league title).
“We’re a hard-nosed team. Teams can try to give it to us and we’ll give it right back. We don’t back down.”