Defenceman Dalton Gally was at a crossroads in his junior hockey career back in October. The 20-year-old was facing the prospect of being the odd man out on the back end in Medicine Hat, and he wasn’t sure what the future held for him.
Then things changed when he got a call on the over-age deadline day, Oct. 10, that he had been traded to the Kelowna Rockets.
Originally a sixth-round pick of the Calgary Hitmen at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Gally never played a game for Calgary. Instead, the product of Eagle River, Alaska, suited up for 135 games for the Tigers before heading to the Okanagan.
Gally wasn’t shocked to be traded, he was excited for another chance but says it was hard to bid farewell to his former team.
“It was tough going from an organization and teammates that you truly love, to have to say goodbye to them so soon like that,” said Gally. “But I looked at Kelowna as a brand new opportunity. Had I stayed in Medicine Hat, I would’ve been scratched and might not have been playing anymore.
“One minute you’re looking at the end of your career potentially, then next minute a new opportunity pops up. I’m here to give everything that I have, and I’m eternally grateful to be playing in the Western Hockey League and for the Kelowna Rockets.”
Before joining the Rockets, Gally was held pointless in the five games he played with the Tigers this season.
In 26 games with the Rockets, the 6-foot-5, 227-pound defender has seven assists and 36 penalty minutes.
He isn’t afraid to be the first player into a scrum when it comes to protecting his goaltender or other teammates either.
Kelowna lost a handful of veteran leaders from the previous season, including a trio of potential returnees in Kole Lind, Dillon Dube and Cal Foote, who all turned pro and are presently playing in the AHL for the top affiliates of the NHL teams that drafted them. As is graduate Carsen Twarynski, another key forward from last season.
Defencemen Gordie Ballhorn and James Hilsendager were the other over-agers who moved on from the WHL.
Gally knew that he would have to step up to the plate and provide leadership.
“I knew they had lost some of the older guys. I just wanted to come in and provide a shoulder for my new teammates — if they needed help, I wanted to be there for them,” said Gally.
After arriving in Kelowna, Gally was partnered with Finnish rookie Lassi Thomson and the two have formed a bond.
“I told him that I’m here for him,” said Gally. “He has taught me some things offensively and we’ve created code words for on the ice, to get around the language barrier.”
Gally has been leading by example, both in the room and on the ice. While he won’t be here for the 2020 Memorial Cup, Gally knows that by helping the younger players his leadership instincts will be part of the run to the Cup, even if he’s not physically on the roster after graduating this spring.
The Rockets return from the holiday break with a home-and-home set against the rival Kamloops Blazers on Dec. 28-29.