There exists an interpretation of the French expression - qui aime bien châtie bien - that can roughly be translated as : you only give hell to the people you like.
By that standard, Canadiens defenceman Hal Gill is one of the most-loved people in Montreal.
The man known as Skillsie - in college some wiseacre customized the ‘Gill’ nameplate over his locker to read Skills: 0 - is playing his 1,000th career NHL game on Thursday in Pittsburgh, the city where he won his one and only Stanley Cup ring.
Here’s a sample of the warm fuzzies in the Habs’ room:
“A thousand games, and he still hasn’t made a good pass,” marvelled Mike Cammalleri, who quickly added a disclaimer, “that one’s not mine, it’s one of the other guys.”
“He’s probably the most annoying guy I’ve ever played with,” said Scott Gomez. “He can’t go more than 30 seconds without hearing the sound of his own voice. There should be a Hal Gill rule to make him shut up.”
With friends like these....
In truth, Gill actually is beloved by his peers, what’s not to like about a big lug who didn’t bother showing up for his own draft and who’s career prospects were given last rites after the last NHL lockout when new rules came into force to limit clutching and grabbing - what Gill refers to as “all that good stuff.”
“It’s actually an amazing accomplishment, everyone in here couldn’t be happier for him,” said Cammalleri.
Gill excels at one thing: strategic taking up of space. In fact, he may be better at it than just about anyone in NHL history - when the six-foot-seven Gill kills penalties he is quite literally almost doing the work of two men.
Of course, his conspicuous lack of meanness and the fact that he’s about as quick as the average battleship has typically driven fans in Boston and Toronto, his first two NHL destinations, mental.
But part of Gill’s charm is that he doesn’t really much care about what people think of him, after all, he was never supposed to be here, let alone play 1,000 games.
“I get it. I’m not pretty to watch . . . hopefully my family still likes me,” Gill smiled.