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Gillies grabbing attention on Long Island

March 13, 2010
Photo: Getty Images

by Kimber Auerbach || AHL On The Beat Archive 

Outside of the New York Islanders’ dressing room, bronzed plaques of the organization’s most prominent figures appear, mounted into the wall where the team takes the long walk to the ice.

The names and faces of Bill Torrey, Al Arbour, Bryan Trottier and Bobby Nystrom, among others, can’t help but draw your eye to read about these legendary players, as they lead the way to the Islanders’ entrance onto the ice.

With all of those Hall of Fame names, there is only one that left wing Trevor Gillies was admiring prior to his fourth career NHL game against the St. Louis Blues -- and his first at the Nassau Coliseum.

The one with his name on it.

Sharing the same last name as Islanders’ four-time Stanley Cup champion, Clark Gillies, you’d think that Trevor was reading about a relative, but as he explains to every new person that sees him with the Islander crest on his jersey, they are not related.

“I can’t even count how many times people have asked me if we were related,” Trevor said. “It would be a true honor to call him one of my relatives. He could do it all, hit fight and score.”

Bloodlines may not be the same but if you watch Trevor on the ice, you might flashback to seeing the bruising number 9 winger from all four of the 1980’s Stanley Cup winning teams. For the Gillies of the present, he is a tough left wing that does not receive the minutes that his predecessor had, but certainly takes advantage of each one, while helping his teammates through each second of theirs.

“I feel like I’m a high intensity guy,” Trevor said. “I bring a positive attitude both on the bench and on the ice. I’m out there to bang bodies and take care of a teammate whether with intimidation or by fighting.”

As the 2009-10 season began, Gillies did not have a home. After playing the past two seasons in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization, mainly with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany River Rats, Gillies needed a fresh start. He received the call from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the start of the year and agreed to terms on an AHL deal.

Gillies instantly became a fan favorite, paired frequently with other Sound Tiger tough guys, Pascal Morency and Micheal Haley.

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“Before I joined the Sound Tigers, I’d played against them but never fought them,” Gillies said. “They did have a way of getting under my skin when we played but now I love playing with them. Pascal is my linemate and we really feed off of one another because he is all over their middleweights and I can go after the heavyweights. Off the ice, I really consider him as one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

Islanders’ head coach Scott Gordon coached against the intimidating 6-foot-3, 215-pound winger in the AHL and knows the impact a player like Gillies brings to the lineup. Through his first three games with the Islanders, Gillies averaged about five minutes of playing time, but on the bench it seems like he is playing every minute with his constant chatter.

“He is able to deflect a lot of attention that would normally be focused on other guys in our lineup onto himself,” Gordon said. “The opposition doesn’t have time to pay attention to punishing other guys to get them off their games because he takes it upon himself to absorb it all.”

The attention on the ice that Gillies gets often transfers off the ice, as he has become a fan-favorite with the Sound Tigers. After most of his fights, the Sound Tiger die-hards in Section 105 salute their heavyweight by standing and applauding, which often ends up with Gillies recognizing them with a wave. Those same fans are the ones that stood around him, cheering him on at the team’s annual St. Baldrick’s Event when Gillies volunteered to shave his head to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

In his 10th season of pro hockey and first with the Sound Tigers, Gillies has played in 24 games and scored his first goal since the 2007-08 season. He has also accumulated 169 penalty minutes.

“The feeling I get when I score a goal is a lot different from when I get into a fight,” Gillies said. “It is something that I wish I got more but I know what my job is and I take pride in that.”

Besides terrorizing opponents with his in-your-face style of play and, if it comes down to it, dropping the gloves, Gillies has also spent some time helping the Islanders’ youth on their ways to achieving their goals.

When the Islanders’ fifth-round pick from the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Matt Martin, was recalled from the Sound Tigers, the first person he credited with helping him through his first year of pro hockey was Gillies. Martin’s power-forward style of play has really gotten a lift from Gillies tips and pointers on how to win battles not only in fights but all over the ice to become more than a one-way player.

“He is one player that has a bright future ahead of him,” Gillies said. “I’m not trying to teach him the skills of hockey like skating or shooting but when he has questions about the fighting aspect, I’m there to help. I was really happy to see how well he did with putting up points and then his fight against Tyler Kennedy.”

Gillies knows that his plaque will not end up on the Islanders’ wall, but to be remembered as one of the Garry Howatts or Sutter brothers from the Islanders’ Stanley Cup teams, wouldn’t be so bad.