HALIFAX, N.S. - Trailblazer.
That was the word which came up most often as St. F.X. sport icon Peggy Gallant was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, as a ‘builder,’ during a ceremony, Nov. 2, at the new Halifax Convention Centre.
Driven, resourceful, communicator, inspirational and character were other words used during the video presentation as well as when hall President and CEO Bruce Rainnie interviewed Gallant, as she accepted her induction plaque.
Gallant’s trailblazing and resourcefulness came up in Rainnie’s first question, as he asked Gallant about her requesting from then St. F.X. athletic director, Father George Kehoe, the money from pop machines to start a women’s soccer team on campus.
“That’s true … and I had to fight Packy McFarland for it; he wanted it for the men’s basketball team,” Gallant said, referencing her former colleague, another St. F.X. sports’ icon.
Rainnie delved further into the subject of Gallant starting programs from scratch and her love of coaching.
“I loved sports as a youth; we didn’t have the accolades, the teams, the travel we have nowadays, but there was always something about it I liked,” Gallant said, prefacing her answer.
“But there weren’t a lot of opportunities for women, especially young women. I asked ‘why? I’m going to do something about that.’
“I drove a lot of people crazy, made a few enemies along the way … some still talk to me,” Gallant said, demonstrating her trademark sense-of-humour.
“Maybe some people in this room,” Rainnie quipped.
“Probably,” Gallant answered back, their quick banter informing and entertaining the large audience on-hand.
In getting back to her love of coaching, Gallant noted a lot of it was just meeting and getting to know the people involved.
“The students, the kids, the athletes and the parents … when I first started coaching I coached little ones and, gradually, I started to coach older and older athletes,” she said. “So all of the people I met along the way; just the social part of it, that’s why people call me a ‘character,’ I always had a lot of fun.”
Speaking with the Casket immediately after the ceremony, Gallant described the event as “lovely.”
“It’s such a treat to be here with all my friends and family,” she said.
She talked about her connection with St. F.X. which started as a student (1969 grad, physical education degree) and continued for five decades; with her first job being director of athletics at Mount St. Bernard while also taking on the tasks of director of intramurals, field hockey coach and teacher of elementary school education.
“I grew up at St. F.X., St. F.X. looked after me,” she said.
“I would never have been able to do all the things I did as a volunteer or as a coach, or even as a parent, without St. F.X. They looked after me; they were welcoming from the time I set foot on that campus until I retired. I loved me job and I love St. F.X.”
During the final group photo of inductees on the evening, Gallant happened to be surrounded by members of the 1978 St. Mary’s Huskies men’s basketball team – the CIAU (now U Sports) national champions. She chuckled as it was pointed out.
“I know,” she said, about the photo set-up, “and I knew they had defeated Steve [Konchalski and the X-Men basketball team] because I was at that 1978 game,” she said.
Famed Huskie coach Brian Heaney talked a lot about the national final versus Acadia, at a sold-out Metro Centre (now Scotiabank Centre), while also mentioning the “very good” X-Men team which the Huskies had to go through as well.
“He did; a nice shout out to St. F.X. and Steve,” Gallant said regarding Heaney’s gracious words.
“And that is what sport is all about … you can’t do it without your opponents.
“Your whole job is about friends and colleagues and athletes, everybody. And it’s about remembering – the good times, the bad times – that is what sport is about. You can learn life through sport and I loved it since I was a little girl … and I’m going to love it forever.”