Few National Hockey League players have careers as long as Todd Gill. So after more than 1,000 games and nearly 20 years, Gill had few regrets when he hung up his skates for the last time after the 2002-03 season.
Gill was a strategic defenseman whose versatile playing style and team leadership skills allowed him to excel not only on the ice but also as a person.
Gill’s leadership skills were needed for a young and building San Jose Sharks team. Before the 1996-97 season, Gill was acquired from Toronto in exchange for current Sharks Radio Analyst Jamie Baker and a fifth round selection in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
Gill was San Jose’s captain for two seasons. His leadership skills, experience and positive work ethic on the ice came in handy as the Sharks were developing young defensemen such as Mike Rathje and Marcus Ragnarsson.
“He was one of those guys who had been in the Toronto cauldron for 12 years and he was just a likeable guy,” Sharks Radio Play-by-Play Announcer Dan Rusanowsky said. “He knew all about the pressures of being a professional player and he could share that with the guys.”
Gill loved San Jose, but towards the end of 1997-98, he was dealt to St. Louis for Joe Murphy, as the Sharks were looking for more scoring from their front lines. Gill’s career would take him from St. Louis to Detroit, Phoenix, Colorado and ended in Chicago after the 2002-03 season.
Gill played in 1,007 games, scored 82 goals and 352 points. He also recorded 1,214 PIMs. “He always got the most out of his body,” Rusanowsky said. “He provided toughness as well as heart and desire.”
Gill started his NHL career in 1984-85 with Toronto. He spent 12 seasons with the Leafs. Gill’s best year was in 1992-93, when he scored 11 goals and 43 points. He was also a member of the Leafs team that lost the Campbell Conference Championship to the Los Angeles Kings.
Gill also has a place in Sharks history, but not as a member of the Sharks. He was on the Toronto team that beat the Sharks in seven games in the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals.
Since Gill left the NHL in 2003, his life has gone in two directions.
Shortly after retirement, he purchased a Ford auto dealership close to his Ontario home. “I’ve always liked cars,” Gill said. “I felt it would be a fun and profitable business opportunity. It was also a fun opportunity that allowed me to do something I enjoyed while maintaining a strong family life.”
But Gill still had a passion for hockey. “I just couldn’t stay away from it any longer,” Gill said. “I wanted to share my experiences to help others learn what a great sport hockey is.”
So, he sold the Ford dealership after four years and started coaching youth hockey in Ontario. Today, he’s coaching 16-20 year old boys for a team in the Central Junior “A” Hockey League (CJHL).
As Sharks Magazine went to press, Gill’s team, the Brockville Braves, are one of the top teams in their division (which is named after Gill’s former teammate in Detroit, Steve Yzerman) and have an 18-6-2-0 record.
“The boys are off to a great start this year,” Gill, who’s also the team’s general manager, said. “I’m very impressed with their hard work and dedication. It’s going to be an outstanding season and I look forward to the rest of the year.”
Through all of his post-NHL experiences, there have been two consistent threads in Gill’s life.
First, he’s been able to spend more time with his two boys and two girls (their ages range from 9 to 16). Second, he’s still using the leadership shills he honed in the NHL. After all, a car dealership owner needs to keep his sales people motivated while managing a staff of mechanics, finance people and administrative help.
Now, Gill is responsible for helping young men develop their games for the next level while running a hockey team at the same time.
There’s an old cliché about how some men are born to lead. That’s not a cliché when speaking about Todd Gill. It’s a fact.
To learn more about Gill’s Brockville Braves and the Central Junior Hockey League, visit www.cjhl.on.ca
Adam Cook has been an assistant in the Sharks Media Relations Department for the last six months. He will be graduating from San Jose State University in December with a double major in advertising and public relations.