When the Florida Panthers fired Gerard Gallant, there were plenty of folks in the hockey world who were surprised.
Count Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell among them.
Campbell, who played his final two seasons in Florida with Gallant at the helm, was stunned to hear Gallant was fired following the Panthers’ 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night.
“Surprise. Probably a lot like everyone else, it seems, was pretty surprised at what happened,” Campbell said following the Blackhawks’ practice on Monday. “Gerard’s a great guy. I liked him. I thought he did a good job there. So yeah, I was surprised, shocked. I don’t know what else to say. They’re playing their game above .500 and they’ve had some injuries. I don’t think anybody thought that was coming.”
Gallant led the Panthers to the postseason last year. The Panthers are 11-10-1 entering Tuesday, when they’ll face the Blackhawks. General manager Tom Rowe will take over as the Panthers’ head coach. Campbell said he talked to some of his former teammates about the firing – “there were rumblings, I guess. Not coming from them, but stuff from behind the scenes and what you hear in the media.”
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Campbell called Gallant “a player’s coach.”
“For us, our practices were nice and short and hard and that’s what you want as a player. He gave you some guidelines to play around. He didn’t have too many highs, too many lows. It’s nice to come to the rink and be even-keel, today’s a new day and you keep going forward,” Campbell said. “We had some success there with him, and that’s the biggest part that’s surprising right now.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said he was watching hockey on Sunday night when he saw the news of Gallant’s firing.
“Very surprised,” Quenneville said. “I wish him well. Tough part of our business.”