Mother of Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher battling brain cancer

His sister has started a fundraising campaign leading up to Brain Cancer Awareness Month in May as mother battles stage-4 Glioblastoma.

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For the first time in five seasons, the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher has been able to remain healthy.

The only games Gallagher has missed were because of a five-game suspension handed down by the NHL for an elbow to the head he delivered on the New York Islanders’ Adam Pelech during a game on Jan. 25.

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Over the previous four seasons, Gallagher missed 104 games. The last time he played a full season with no injuries was 2018-19 when he posted 33-19-52 totals in 82 games. This season, the 31-year-old has 11-9-20 totals in 61 games.

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Gallagher has never used injuries — or anything else — as an excuse during his 12 seasons with the Canadiens. It’s not in his DNA.

While Gallagher has remained healthy this season, his mother is dealing with a very serious health issue. Two-and-a-half years ago, Della Gallagher was diagnosed with a stage-4 cancer of the brain called Glioblastoma and was given between six and 18 months to live. It was only recently that Gallagher’s sister, Bree, divulged the news as part of a fundraising campaign she started leading up to Brain Cancer Awareness Month in May. Bree will be running in the BMO Marathon on May 5 in Vancouver and is looking for sponsorship and/or donations to the cause. Bree set a goal of raising $15,000 on the personal fundraising page she set up through the BC Cancer Foundation.

In an interview with Sportsnet’s Eric Engels on Wednesday, Gallagher admitted his mother’s condition has affected him both on and off the ice. It would be impossible not to.

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“Especially the first year, there were some tough times,” Gallagher told Engels. “I think having (fiancée) Emma at home is huge for me, being able to talk to her. Especially being away from the family — you call back as much as you can, but it’s been tough.”

Gallagher thanked head coach Martin St. Louis for regularly checking in with him.

“I think the rink, the ice, to me that’s probably his therapy to help him cope,” St. Louis said Thursday when asked about Gallagher. “It’s never easy when a family member is going through a tough time. It’s hard to separate that and go and play and I feel Gally’s done a great job. I haven’t seen any changes on the ice. I think he’s handling it extremely well. It’s not an easy thing to deal with.”

St. Louis’s mother, France, died suddenly from a heart attack at age 63 in 2014, when he was playing for the New York Rangers.

“It’s one of those things that’s so much bigger than hockey,” Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson said after Thursday’s 2-1 OT loss to the Boston Bruins when asked about Gallagher. “I’ve been through it, too, with family members. In a way, being able to come in here (the locker room) is a bit of an escape from it. But, at the same time, it’s not easy at all. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.”

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