Hal Gill was almost relieved to find out he's not a giant among men in the Maple Leafs dressing room.
The newest Toronto defenceman can still look adjoining skyscapers Nik Antropov, Staffan Kronwall, Andy Wozniewski and Chad Kilger in the eye, and thus take the focus off his publicized 6-foot-7 stature. Being that tall and weighing 250 pounds did him no good when the National Hockey League put the clampdown on obstruction.
"That was my calling card," Gill admitted with a laugh yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena, his third day of informal skating with the team ahead of next week's training camp opening. "Guys like me are the reason Mario Lemieux retired the first time. But now you don't need the size as much as the mobility.
"Hopefully, I can do other things for this team such as kill penalties. It's a special teams league right now and that's important. Everyone has had to adjust."
Gill began drastically altering his style in his final season with the Boston Bruins and his new team should be the full beneficiary. He is the No. 4 defenceman on the depth chart, expected to partner with Pavel Kubina behind Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle.
After eight years as a Bruin, the 31-year-old from Concord, Mass., has gone through a bit of a culture shock as a Leaf. Fellow newcomer Andrew Raycroft is his only Boston connection, with Wozniewski the only other American expected to be in the mix next month.
"There certainly is a lot of blue around here," Gill said of his surroundings. "But everyone has treated me well so far."
He's also hit it off with Darcy Tucker, a player he greatly disliked during the eight-game regular season Leafs-Bruins series last year.
"It was hard to turn off that hate switch," Gill said with a laugh. "He's someone everyone hates to play against, but he's the aggressive sort of player you would want on your team."