Comic strip aficionados might recall a L’l Abner character who wandered about with a cloud of misfortune hanging over his head – as the saying goes, if he didn’t have bad luck, he would have no luck at all.
The character’s name was Joe Something-or-else – but it could well have been Kerry Gallagher for his life has been beset with one obstacle after another.
Throughout his difficulties, though, Kerry has always been able to flash a broad, engaging smile. In his youth, he was an excellent athlete. Lacrosse Hall-of-Famer Mike Gates once described Gallagher as a “thinking man’s player”.
“Kerry is one of the smartest ballplayers I’ve ever played with”, said Gates. “There isn’t enough I can say about him. Look at his checking – he’s one of the best. As far as loose balls are concerned, Kerry’s right up there with Wayne Goss.”
Another Hall-of-Famer, John Allen, chipped in: “If there’s anyone who can grab a loose ball and then lay down a perfect pass, it’s Kerry”.
Praise indeed from two former superstars!
Born in New Westminster in 1946, Gallagher played minor lacrosse, soccer and hockey in the Royal City with buddies Wayne Goss and Ken Winzoski. But, when it came time to enter the junior boxla ranks in 1965, Kerry chose the fledging Coquitlam J-Hawks over the Junior Salmonbellies. He earned 39 points in just 14 games and, after just two junior games the following year, he moved up permanently to the senior Coquitlam Adanacs.
Just 19, Gallagher scored six goals and 17 assists in his rookie senior year and was immediately labeled a future superstar.
But then it began. Kerry was participating in the Western Canadian junior hockey championships with New Westminster when he suffered a broken shoulder, forcing him to sit out the entire 1967 lacrosse season.
He made a successful comeback in 1968 with the Adanacs (now playing out of Portland, Oregon), scoring 31 goals and 36 assists. The team was back in Coquitlam the following year when Kerry enjoyed his finest season – 94 points on 40 goals and 54 assists.
Personal matters kept him inactive for most of the 1970 season but he did mange to pick up 33 points in 10 playoff games. Kerry joined the New Westminster Fire Department prior to the 1971 season and, due to a six-month probationary period, he again managed to play only a handful of games.
With his employment now in the Royal City, Kerry joined the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the 1972 season. He repeated his 1969 all-star performance, scoring 127 points in 45 league and playoff games and helping the club to a Mann Cup title.
But that was it! For personal reasons, Kerry retired from active competition at the age of 26, having accumulated 190 goals and 269 assists for 459 points in 207 senior games.
But the black cloud over his head remained. Kerry was sleeping in the basement bedroom of a friend’s house in 1984 when a fire broke out, trapping him. He managed to smash his way through a small window but not before he suffered extensive second and third degree burns to his face, head, hands and back. Kerry eventually recovered from the injuries but was forced to retire from the fire department.
Now, 16 years later, a ray of sunlight has pushed aside that cloud of misfortune – Kerry Gallagher has been named a 2000 inductee into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.