BOSTON – During his eight seasons with the Bruins, defenseman Hal Gill was beloved by some and hated by many.
When he takes the ice tonight for Game 1 of Montreal’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Bruins, the Concord, Mass., native will definitely feel some animosity raining down from the TD Garden rafters.
It’s not exactly how a kid that starred at Nashoba Regional and dreamed of playing with Ray Bourque (he eventually did) drew up it up back in the day.
“Not very often,” said Gill today after his team’s morning skate when asked about imagining he’d be a villain in Boston. “But it’s nice. It’s nice being part of this rivalry and being part of this series. I think it will be a great series. I feel like I had a great time in Boston, but it would be nice to beat these guys.”
As for who Gill’s family is rooting for, he joked: “I haven’t talked to them.”
The 36-year-old Gill also had a kidding response when asked if his teammates give him some ribbing for being a Bay State native that probably had one or two Bruins posters on his wall as a kid.
“They don’t remember what it was like when I was a kid. I don’t remind them,” he said. “They weren’t even a thought when I was a kid.”
For all his detractors when he was with the Bruins, Gill has gotten the last laugh. He left for Toronto and then was traded to Pittsburgh. With the Penguins, he became a mainstay on a shutdown pair with Rob Scuderi on a team that won the 2009 Stanley Cup. With Montreal, Gill has continued to be a rock in his own end as well as a mentor to a youthful group of players highlighted by Calder Trophy candidate and defense partner P.K. Subban.
Last season, Gill nearly got a chance to play for the Cup again, as the eighth-seeded Canadiens made an improbable run to the Eastern Conference finals. In their first series, they trailed Washington three games to one before rallying for the victory. Then they beat Pittsburgh before falling to Philadelphia.
Those experiences could come in handy for the Habs against the Bruins.
“I think you learn from your experiences. We don’t want to be down 3-1, but we want to make sure that we know we can compete on that level,” said Gill. “We kind of forced ourselves into that position last year, but we know we can compete at that level, at that high level and do what it takes to win.”
Gill has definitely learned what it takes to win it all along the way. Even if he’s not plying his trade in the sweater he thought he would, he’s still living the dream.