By Jamie Palatini
The New York Islanders Draft Party featured appearances by three players who arrived on Long Island in three very different ways, perhaps none of them more unexpectedly and more surprisingly than bruising forward Trevor Gillies
Gillies finished the 2009-2010 season with the Islanders after spending most of the year with their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He quickly became a fan favorite on Long Island due to his aggressive and tenacious style of play. It also didn’t hurt that he shares a last name with former Isles great, Clark Gillies.
“I’m hoping my popularity has to do with my hard work and determination. It also probably doesn’t hurt that my last name is Gillies.”
Ironically enough, this member of the Isles’ 2010 Draft Party trio was never drafted, and had only played in one NHL game before his call-up last year. Tonight, he found himself standing on stage next to 2009 1st overall pick John Tavares
, who’s 54 points led the Islanders last season, and Matt Moulson
, who lead the Islanders with 30 goals.
Along with his hardnosed style of play, Gillies is known for his trademark facial hair. One of the most popular activities at the Islanders Draft Party was the Trevor Gillies
‘Stache Station. Fans could donate a dollar to the Islanders Children’s Foundation in exchange for a fake mustache to wear in the fashion of Gillies’ Fu Manchu look.
“My son and his friend ran right to the ‘Stache Station,” lifelong Islanders fan Michele Burcroff said. “He said that was the number one thing, that he had to get the mustache. Gillies is one of his favorite players.”
As for the origins of his trademark look, Gillies explained, “It’s actually pretty funny how it happened. It’s something we started with a couple guys in Bridgeport, a few of us including Scott Munroe, Joel Rechlicz and myself grew ‘staches as a joke. Then I got called up, and I didn’t want to mess with anything that was working. For the fans to think of me and want to wear it is an absolute honor. Looks like I’m going to have to keep rockin’ the ‘stache for awhile.”
For a player who has spent his entire career fighting both literally and figuratively to get to the NHL, Gillies found his experience at the Islanders Draft Party humbling.
“I’m so honored to wear the Islanders’ crest,” Gillies said. “I take great pride in doing my job and looking after my teammates. Just to be thought of and brought to an event like this with those two great young stars is amazing. I’m thrilled to be in their company.”
Another reason for Gillies’ popularity is surely due to his interaction off the ice with the fans. After spending many seasons playing minor league hockey, he understands how important it is to give back to those who have given him so much.
“The fans mean everything to me. There have been a couple teams where I was named fan favorite, which was an absolute honor. When I was a kid, I remember the players who were really nice to me when I’d go to NHL practices and give me signatures. I never forgot about those guys who went out of their way to make my day.”
“If I can make a kid smile, and I can make his day, I’m going to do it.”