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Lacrosse legend relishes role as mentor and coach to next generation of players 

Community ProfileLacrosse legend relishes role as mentor and coach to next generation of players 

Throughout his lacrosse career, John Gallant has maintained a sheer determination and exceptional work ethic, helping him to become a multi-league champion, a respected teacher, and an acclaimed defensive coach, culminating in being inducted into the Brantford and Area Sports Hall of Recognition in 2019.

However, Gallant explains his first exposure to lacrosse, a sport he grew to love, yet had no expectations for long-term success.

“I was born and raised in Brantford and lived behind Pauline Johnson High School and Mohawk Park. I had a typical childhood with two siblings. All three of us were actively involved in sports and my first passion was hockey. I played AAA hockey growing up in the winter and then played baseball in the summer,” Gallant explained. “Around Grade 6 someone who worked with my father introduced me to the game of lacrosse; their family was big into the sport. I then substituted lacrosse in place of baseball during the summer. I liked the competitiveness and I liked the physicality which was similar to hockey. I jumped into [lacrosse] without really knowing much about it, but ended up falling in love with the game.”

The co-worker was the sister of legendary lacrosse player and coach Gaylord Powless, who coached Gallant during his time with the Brantford Minor Lacrosse Association Warriors.

“I’ve been fortunate enough in my youth, and then in my professional career, to be coached by legends of the game [like Gaylord Powless]. As a young teenager, I was exposed to great people who had a deep knowledge of the game and its history…and I learned the importance of the game for a culture as well, “said Gallant.

Along with having a solid Lacrosse career, John Gallant has developed into a respected coach in college Lacrosse. He has coached at multiple levels and is currently an assistant coach with the University of Denver men’s lacrosse program. Photo courtesy Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association.

Gallant would continue to enjoy playing for the Warriors; however, despite his passion for the game, he didn’t see a career in lacrosse transpiring. 

“I did not see myself playing outside of junior lacrosse. I tried out for the Mississauga Tomahawks Jr, two years in a row. I was cut both times. After being cut the second time, I didn’t know where to go. And Landon Miller, with whom I played junior hockey, told me to come to try out for the Six Nation Arrows. I was a walk-on [and the] only person who was not from Six Nations. I worked hard and I made the team…I continued learning about the game of lacrosse [and its] importance” Gallant continued. “From 1997 to 1999, these were the best three years of my lacrosse career…it was that time the trajectory of where my life was going changed. Before 1997, I was just looking to play the game because I enjoyed it…I had no goals to play at the college level or pro. I was fortunately cut by the Mississauga Tomahawks [and I was in the] right place and right time when I made it on the Six Nation Arrows.”

Although Gallant and the Arrows (the team was part of the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League) would become one of the most competitive teams in the nation, [and] would be runners-up to the Minto Cup in 1998.

Regardless, during this time, Gallant, who captured the John “Gus” McCauley Memorial Award as the Ontario Lacrosse Association Outstanding Defensive Player in 1999, would reassess his career in lacrosse, especially playing against elite teams and competing at a high level.

“It changed my perspective of how I could play lacrosse at the next level…I spent two years with the Six Nations [and] without the coaching staff and the community, I would never have gained the skills, nor the competitiveness in work ethic to play professional lacrosse, which I was able to do when I left there, “said Gallant.

Gallant played in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) for 14 seasons. He was signed as a free agent with the Washington Power in 2002. The Power would be relocated to Denver as the Colorado Mammoth. Gallant would be an Assistant Captain for multiple seasons and eventually become Team Captain in 2009. Photo courtesy John Gallant Archives/Colorado Mammoth.

However, Gallant would go play with the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association winning two Canadian Senior Lacrosse Championships, in both 2003 and 2005. By 2006, he had made his way to the National Lacrosse League (NLL) as a free agent; being coached by Gary Gait, one of the best lacrosse players of all time.

“I made it onto the Washington Power as a free agent and walked into the dressing room with all these great players, but I worked hard [and] I knew what my role was [and] what was expected of me as a defensive player. I wanted to be a contributing factor,” Gallant said. “I played one year in Washington, and we lost to the Toronto Rock in double overtime, in the semi-finals. After that season the team was sold, and we moved to Denver, Colorado.”

In 2006, Gallant would be part of the Colorado Mammoth team that captured their first NLL title. Gallant has been an integral part of various championship teams throughout his career across leagues including two Mann Cups. Photo courtesy Associated Press.

For the next season, Gallant suited up for the relocated franchise, the Colorado Mammoth, and would find much success. He decided to move to Denver and eventually settle there.  

“Our General Manager really believed in me and what I could do [so] he extended my contract. I moved out here; I moved in the summertime. And then in the winter, I made that transition from living in Washington to Denver,” explained Gallant. “I worked my way up from being a free agent, to ultimately being the captain of the team and then in 2006 winning the World Championship. I love the city of Denver, and the fan base, [they] accepted us as a team and accepted me as a player. I haven’t left since coming here when the team moved and then starting a family, and now I am building on that the next chapter of my lacrosse career [as a coach.]”

After winning the National Lacrosse League Championship, Gallant was again recognized for his hard work and leadership by being named to Team Canada helping them defend their World Indoor Lacrosse Championship title in 2007.

“I was selected to be on that team; I was a free agent, walk-on and non-drafted player [during my career] … [and now] to be a part of Team Canada; walking into the dressing room surrounded by such great players and Hall of Famers, it was a surreal experience,” described Gallant. “I played some of the games in the round-robin tournament and the semi-final. We had a couple of guys come down with injuries so I played in the final [where] we beat the Haudenosaunee Nationals Men’s Lacrosse Team in overtime in Halifax.”

During his NLL career, Gallant’s team made it to the playoffs 12 times, and became a member of the Mammoth’s All-Decade Team in 2012. He also was enshrined in the Brantford and Area Sports Hall of Recognition in 2019. Photo courtesy John Gallant Archives/Colorado Mammoth.

Along with Gallant’s stellar playing career, he also maintained a career as a school teacher.

“During my playing career, I was an elementary school teacher. I taught kindergarten and second grade for about 15 years. I enjoy teaching [and] when I left high school and Brantford and I went to college, becoming a teacher was the furthest thing anyone would ever think I would do,” said Gallant.

However, after retiring from playing lacrosse professionally in 2015, Gallant was brought back in a coaching capacity where he spent time under the tutelage of John Grant Jr. at Valor Christian High School, where they won the Colorado 4A State Championship in 2016. Gallant was also exposed to the nuances of coaching.

“It wasn’t what I had planned. After retiring I wanted to take a step back and relax a little bit…but I was right back into a more rigorous schedule. I knew what coaches did…a coach’s time commitment is so much more than a player; they are constantly scouting; refining and watching film. I got thrown right into coaching. And our first year we lost in the championship game but during the second year, we won the state championship,” continued Gallant. “The reason why I fell in love with [coaching] is it’s like teaching [and also] my expectation was to be the best teacher and to be now to be the best coach I could be.”

During his five years with the University of Denver men’s lacrosse program, Gallant has worked hard to build a strong defensive unit. The program’s defense was ranked eighth in the country in 2023 and first in the Big East conference. Photo courtesy University of Denver Athletics.

After two years at Valor Christian High School, Gallant spent three years as Head Coach at Rock Canyon High School in Highlands Ranch Colorado, and then took on another golden opportunity to work with another successful coach Bill Tierney at the University of Denver Men’s Lacrosse program.

“He’s the best coach ever. Even after his retirement, I still talk to him almost every day. I have just been so lucky in my life to be around great people who have done their absolute best. I’ve also been fortunate to find the things I like to do and be in the right situation at the right moment,” Gallant said.

However, Gallant has continued to utilize his teaching expertise at the University of Denver as well as his vast lacrosse knowledge and past professional experience, relishing his time mentoring and coaching his players.

“Being an assistant coach allows me that opportunity to teach young men the skills of both lacrosse, but also to help teach them lessons that are going to help them become a better husband, a better father, and a better man. I don’t have the ambition right now, to become a head coach, because that responsibility takes away from teaching. I enjoy the daily one-on-ones [and] enjoy the interactions that I have with my players…using the lessons that I’ve learned [and my] experiences to relate to my players as well,” Gallant concluded.

Gallant has prided himself on not only using his knowledge and experience to guide young men but also mentoring them to become caring and well-rounded individuals. Photo courtesy University of Denver Athletics.

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