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Herb Gallagher - 1985 Legend of College Hockey


When people think of New England college hockey, they think of Herb Gallagher, tonight's honored guest.

"I made my career at Northeastern University," said Gallagher, who spent nearly fifty years working with the Boston school. "But I started skating in a rink in my backyard when I was four years old."


Gallagher's father made a rink in their family's backyard in Newton, Massachusetts, every year until Gallagher was in high school. He credits the backyard rink with giving him a head start in hockey.

"I could skate better than I could walk back then," said Gallagher, who retired in October 1976.

Gallagher's father, who was born in Canada, never pushed him into organized sports, but wanted him to be active. His mother liked the skating rink in the yard and used it herself, Gallagher said.

Gallagher went on to play on a number of high school teams and graduated in 1930, when the depression began.

It was because of the depression that Gallagher chose Northeastern, which was a "streetcar ride away" from his family's home. Northeastern, the biggest private school in the . nation, is a five-year school where students divide their time between class and work.

During school he worked at an ice cream company and played on Northeastern's hockey, baseball and soccer teams. He received nine varsity letters and probably would have gotten twelve if the school hadn't dropped the soccer program during Gallagher's sophomore year, said Jack Grinold, Northeastern's Sports Information Director.

Gallagher recalls when he came to Northeastern, the hockey coach didn't even make him try out for the team because of the good reputation of his high school team. He didn't let his college coach down, and, in 1934, became the team captain.

But Gallagher also excelled at other sports. He was named an All-New England selection in hockey and baseball. In fact, one of Gallagher's best remembered sports moments came in a baseball game against Rhode Island, which, in 1933, was on a nine-game winning streak. A Boston Herald writer wrote how that winning streak was "abruptly halted by Herb Gallagher's pitching and hitting as Northeastern scored a clean-cut victory . . . All honors went to the right-handed Gallagher."

Also during college, Gallagher played on three local hockey teams, and when his college eligibility ran out after his fourth year, he joined the Boston Olympics.

After graduation in 1935, Gallagher joined the Provincial Baseball League in Canada and then the National Hockey League of England. In winter 1936 he went from England to Austria to be a coach of that country's Olympic hockey team, which competed in the 1936 winter games in Garmisch, Germany.

Gallagher joined the Austrian team as a way to see the rest of Europe, and he planned to stay another four years after the Olympics, in which his team was eliminated by Canada, but U.S. officials said he should leave because of the possibility of war.

He returned to Northeastern as a physical and economics education professor and as hockey and freshman baseball coach. In 1938 he became varsity baseball coach.

His early coaching career got good reviews. A Boston Globe columnist wrote "Gallagher, serving his first year as Husky coach, has turned in one of the best instructional jobs in Boston hockey history."

Another Globe columnist later wrote, "Coach Herbie Gallagher has turned green material into clever players."

World War II broke out and Gallagher joined the Navy, where he earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

In 1946 he returned to Northeastern to teach and coach. Two years later he was named New England hockey coach of the year.

During his teaching and coaching, Gallagher found time to be a linesman in the National Hockey League, but, in 1955, the university asked him to stop some of his outside activities to be athletic director, a position he held for twenty-one years.

During that long tenure Gallagher worked for growth and equal identity of all of the school's teams. The hockey, baseball, basketball, track and cross country teams all won several championships.

Sixty-eight percent of Northeastern's teams had winning seasons during Gallagher's twenty-one years, said Grinold.

Another of Gallagher's activities was the National Collegiate Athletic Association Ice Hockey Rules Committee, which set the guidelines for the rules in place today. He was chairman of the committee for six years.

Gallagher was president of the New England Athletic Conference, the Greater Boston Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges, the Intercollegiate Ice Hockey Association and the American Hockey Coaches Association. For more than twenty years he was secretary-treasurer of the New England Athletic Conference.

He has won the Sheaffer Pen Award for Outstanding Contribution to Hockey, and is a member of the Halls of Fame for Collegiate Hockey and Northeastern University.

One quote which sums up Gallagher's hockey life was made by a writer for the old Boston Transcript. "Tall and slender, with a baseball cap always perched on top of his head. Gallagher has played right wing most of the time. He has combined speed of skating and of shot with smart play; until today (the 1930's) he rates as one of the outstanding players in intercollegiate hockey circles. With all his ability to shoot 'em into the net where the goalie 'ain't,' Gallagher never fails to set up his teammates with assists and goals."