During yesterday's game thread we all briefly jumped in on an interesting topic. If the Pens can't do it this year, then who do you root for? Obviously I'm not bumping the Pens from the playoffs just yet, but I found it amusing that some people started choosing based on former Penguins, such as Rob Scuderi in LA. Of course some also voted against Chicago for that same reason (ya know, Marian Hossa). I for one don't want Martin Skoula winning, but that's more on the Devils than it is on him.
So when our residential translator Becky passed along an article on Montreal's Hal Gill, I started thinking. Now, whenever my team in any sport gets eliminated, I often find myself going across a conference. Yankees are out? Go Dodgers. Nuggets? Magic. Jets are out (surprise)? Well, bad example. I normally root for the Steelers whenever the Jets are out of it, but you get the point.
But I think a guy like Hal Gill gets overlooked a bit, and we'd all be lying if we said we weren't cheering a little bit for the Canadiens in this first round. He put in some time with the Pens and, according to this article, left only because he wanted a long-term deal and Pittsburgh wasn't offering one. He played a big part in Pittsburgh's cup win and now he's looking to keep it going up in Montreal.
So while I'm not exactly ready to start rooting on the Habs to win it all, I still think this was a great translated piece worth sharing. Thanks again to Becky. Take the jump to read up on Hal's trials and tribulations in Montreal.
Original post, in French, available on RDS.ca.
Gill rallies the Habs
When Hal Gill came to terms with the Canadiens last July 1st, a lot of people in the NHL were of the opinion that Bob Gainey had just committed an error. That he’d just acquired a player who no longer had a place [in the NHL] because he was much too slow. "That’s the story of my career," said Gill, whom I encountered in Raleigh.
The truth is that few people had Hal Gill in their sights. However, two people whom I respect very much told me last summer that Gill was going to help the Canadiens. One was my boss (VP at RDS), who is a great hockey connoisseur, and the other was Vincent Lecavalier. The latter told me that Gill was a difficult player to go against, and that he was going to help the Canadiens on the penalty kill. That is, in fact, the case. Moreover, Hal Gill is a great leader, and his presence is very important, as he brings a quality that’s been missing in recent years: someone who is going to make sure that everyone stays positive.
Know how to have fun
What Hal Gill has learned in his 12 seasons in the NHL is that you have to have fun playing hockey. But that doesn’t mean that you take it lightly.
"You have to enjoy life. Above all, you must not be forever worrying about winning. If you spend your time thinking about victory, it’s probably because you’re not winning. It’s like a golfer who tells himself, I’ve absolutely got to make this putt to win. Most of the time, he’s going to miss. So you’ve got to enjoy it. It was this philosophy that allowed the Penguins to take home the Stanley Cup last season. I remember that when we changed coaches in the middle of the season, we said to ourselves that we had to stop being miserable and start to have fun. For my part, I was no longer playing, having been scratched by Michel Therrien most of the time. But after his departure, I played in every game. I went from one of the worst periods of my life, to the best, in a couple of months."
Gill’s life changed completely a year ago. He was rarely playing under Michel Therrien, but Dan Bylsma had so much confidence in him, that he used him in every situation; he was even on the ice as Pittsburgh won the cup. Today, he wants to find that positive philosophy in the locker room of his current team. "You have to have fun. Against the Flyers [two weeks] ago, I can assure you that was the attitude we all had, in spite of the importance of the game. We were excited, and we all said that we were going to enjoy it."
Don’t think, however, that Hal Gill is not demanding. He played in 66 games this season and was never scratched by Jacques Martin. And he wants to give more. "I am never satisfied with what I do on the ice. There are often games that I’d like to have back. When I’m preparing for games, I tell myself that I mustn’t make any errors. Sometimes I hear spectators at the Bell Center who don’t appreciate certain plays that I make. I want to tell them, ‘Sorry, but it’s not always going to be pretty.’ Still, I understand, and I’m very happy in Montreal right now."
Hal Gill has always heard that there was no place for him in the NHL. When the rules changed, they said it was the end for him. However, Kirk Muller told me that, before the lockout, it was almost easy to play against him. Since the lockout, Gill has been much better, according to Muller. He is considered to be a penalty kill specialist, and Jacques Martin told me that his team has had trouble playing 4-on-5, when he is absent due to injury. But what does the future hold for Hal Gill, who turned 35 [on April 6th]? "Every year in February, I tell my wife that it’s my last season, because I hurt all over. Then spring arrives, and I think that I want to play another 10 years. No need to tell you that my wife makes fun of me sometimes. But the truth is that I’m willing to sacrifice my body to win. If I have to block a shot with my face, I’ll be happy doing it. That tells you how much I want to help this team."
This philosophy is very much appreciated by his teammates, but also by team management. If he’s no longer playing in Pittsburgh, it’s because the organization offered him only a one-year contract. He wanted to have more security than that. The Canadiens are making the most of his presence, and even if not everyone knows of his impact, you can be sure that Jacques Martin doesn’t want to go without his services. And that is just what a 35-year-old player wants to hear.