Backcheck: Hal Gill
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College Players with 1,000 NHL GP
Hal Gill stepped off the Providence College campus in 1997 and into the Boston Bruins lineup, spending only four games in the AHL after his four-year Friar career.
Thursday in Pittsburgh the towering, 6-foot-7 defenseman will reach a milestone that must have seemed a distant dream when he made his NHL debut 14 years and three days ago: he will play in his 1,000th NHL game.
Gill will become the 41st former college player to play 1,000 NHL games and only the third active one, trailing only Brian Rolston and Adrian Aucoin. Gill is the second Providence alum to accomplish the feat behind Tom Fitzgerald.
Now playing for Montreal - his fourth NHL team after stops in Toronto, Pittsburgh and Boston - Gill's ties to college hockey remain strong. He attended the College Hockey, Inc. Golf Classic this summer and speaks fondly of his time on campus.
"It was the best time of my life," he said last year after a morning skate with the Canadiens. "You go through a lot in college, learning to be an adult so to speak, to be a man. I look at a lot of the things I went through and they are helping me to deal with the things I'm dealing with now."
Gill wasn't a heralded college player - he won Providence's Ron Wilson Award as a senior as the team's top defenseman, but wasn't an All-Hockey East selection - but he honed his skills as a rugged defensive defenseman who can be counted on against opponents' top lines. From a rookie paired with Ray Bourque to his time now partnering with P.K. Subban, it's clear Gill is comfortable being out of the spotlight, even with a milestone like Thursday night's.
"To be honest with you, I'm more excited to try and get a win here," he told Arpon Basu of NHL.com. "It's fun and I'm proud of what I've done - 1,000 games is something I never really thought I'd get to. But the win would be a lot nicer right now."