Gill honoured for 1,000 games

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:03 PM ET

MONTREAL - Hal Gill wonders how much one more point would have meant to his days as a Maple Leaf.

The big man, honoured here Saturday night for 1,000 NHL games, has almost no regrets about his career, but of the four cities he’s played in, two years with the Leafs marked the only stop where he missed the playoffs. And that was by the slimmest of margins. On April 7, 2007, the Leafs beat Montreal 6-5 to reach 91 points and knock out the Habs, only to see the Islanders win a shootout against New Jersey the next day for 92, stealing eighth spot.

Gill didn’t finish another year, traded to Pittsburgh for draft picks, while the Leafs haven’t been in post-season or cleared 90 points since.

“If we’d made it that year, then it’s a whole different story for everyone involved,” Gill said, no doubt thinking of general manager John Ferguson, who had signed him, coach Paul Maurice and many departed teammates.

Ferguson and Maurice were let go during and after that season, respectively.

“I’ve talked to (ex-Leaf assistant coach) Randy Ladouceur (now with Hamilton of the AHL) and it’s a similar situation. You hope you get those points, but you didn’t, and you’re sitting on the outside, watching. That’s the tough part. I have a lot of great memories of Toronto, the people and the city itself, but hockey was a tough one there. I thought I played well, but we didn’t get over the edge.”

In Gill’s first full year with Pittsburgh, the Penguins won the Cup. In their initial title defence, Gill had gone to Montreal as a free agent and had a huge role in eliminating the Pens. He has played 69 playoff games since leaving Toronto and 43 before that with Boston. Now he’s in the 1,000 game club, having gone through four major hockey markets and the accompanying scrutiny.

“My family has been a big part of why I’ve kept my sanity through the years, so it’s nice to have them out there (Saturday).”

Gill has wondered about life in one of the NHL’s non-traditional franchises.

“It would be nice to go down to Florida, where it’s not as big a market, you can just enjoy the sun, play hockey and focus on the game,” he said. “At the same time, every game (with an Original Six club) means something big. There are implications, even for a Tuesday night against a non-conference opponent. That keeps you sharp. So you take the good with the bad.”

Gill received gifts from the Habs, Leafs and the NHL before Saturday’s game. The 36-year-old will eventually have some great historical decor for his man cave, with his three Original Six sweaters mounted next to some Cup souvenirs and his 1,000th game mementoes.

“Something anybody would always want to do is play in Toronto, Montreal, play in your hometown (he’s from the Boston suburb of Concord) and win the Cup. I’ve been pretty (lucky) in all of that.”


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