Photo by Rena Laverty
For Owen Gallatin, his hockey playing days started as soon as he could walk on an outdoor pond in his hometown of Hugo, Minnesota.
“I started skating as a one-year-old,” he said. “We had a pond in our backyard in Minnesota. I started playing organized hockey when I was four and played with a lot of older kids when I started off.
“Every winter growing up, my dad would flood the pond so we could skate on it. We would clean it off and take care of it. We moved after a little while, but we still found my friend’s pond to skate on or we would go to the outdoor rinks. It’s a rite of passage in Minnesota to go play outdoor hockey.”
It’s no wonder Gallatin fell in love with hockey. But how did he fall in love with defense?
“It’s a funny story actually,” he said. “I never had a position until I joined this summer team when I was an eight-year-old. The coach was going around asking, ‘What position do you play?’ and for some reason, I said defense. My parents were so confused when I came out playing defense. I just kept playing that position and it really took off from there.
“I played all over. I even played goalie once in my life. I would play defense or offense, wherever they wanted me.”
Once he figured out his spot, he soon realized that he didn’t want to leave the blue line. He became cognizant of the important role he was tasked with on the ice.
“I think that the defensemen control the play more,” said Gallatin. “You have to get the puck out of the zone or you get to start rushes. Then there’s the consistent challenge of shutting down guys in your own zone. You get to start the play up for your team. You can really quarterback the game.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
“I played baseball growing up and have golfed my whole life,” he said. “I was mainly a pitcher and a shortstop in baseball. When you’re a pitcher, all the eyes are on you and the pressure can be high. It really transitions over to hockey when you are in high-pressure situations. I was able to handle it better.”
Even with this all-eyes-on-me mentality, it was a difficult transition at times for Gallatin. He played just one year of hockey at White Bear Lake Area High School prior to coming to the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
“It was really tough, probably tougher than I thought it would be,” he said. “High school hockey can be a little softer than the USHL. There is more space and freedom to use your skill. The USHL is faster, more physical and more competitive. You have to work a lot harder. The speed is at another level. It was tough, but it was fun to give myself a challenge. I know I am getting better because of it.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
Growing up, Gallatin also played golf and baseball, in addition to hockey. In baseball he enjoyed roles similar to defense in hockey that involved a lot of action and responsibility.
When he reflects back on his first season with the NTDP, he realizes just how much his game has grown.
“I learned how to use my body more,” said Gallatin, who is 5-foot-7, 152 pounds. “At the start of the season, I really didn’t use my body much and I wasn’t used to it. I wasn’t used to it because it didn’t match my previous playing style. Now, if I don’t use my body, I know I’m putting myself at a disadvantage.
“The coaches showed me a different style of play. They want me to use my angles, use my body and use my size to my advantage to make quick plays.”
One of the big things that he realizes is just how many tools he has to be successful at the NTDP. Plus, Gallatin knows the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity that is given to him.
“You can pick one thing on your game that you need to work on and utilize it the most,” he explained. “For me, I will stay in the workout room afterwards and do some drills for explosiveness, such as working on my sprints or some extra squats. In the shooting room, you can be in there whenever you want and work on your shot.”
At the end of the day, what matters to him above all is wearing the colors of his country.
“It means the world to me,” said Gallatin. “How many hockey players get to represent their country, especially at this age? It’s unbelievable. There are not many words to explain it.”
As for a favorite memory from the season, that one’s easy to explain.
“My first goal [on Nov. 11],” said Gallatin, who finished the season with two goals and 15 points. “It was against Central Illinois. I shot a floater from the blue line, just trying to get the puck on net. It went through the five hole and ended up being the game-winner in a 1-0 game. It was super exciting for me. I was really pumped.”
Gallatin plans to take that excitement and the lessons he learned this year and apply it to his summer training. He knows what he needs to do to be ready for his Under-18 season.
“I’m going to work on my explosiveness and work on my shot,” he said. “I want to get some jump off my first step so I can go faster. Obviously, my shot can never get good enough.
“Growing up, I never worked with a personal trainer. I usually worked out with my dad as my personal trainer. I would get some of my buddies from White Bear and we would work out together. This year, I will have a personal trainer and I will be working out with some football guys. I’m going to be doing my own specialized workout, so I’m really excited to see where that takes me.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.