Botwood’s Andre Gill has been a proven force for Grand Falls-Windsor
All things considered, 29-year-old Andre Gill is pretty satisfied with his life and where his hockey career has taken him to this point.
© File photo
Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts winger Andre Gill, a native of Botwood, has been one of senior hockey’s most potent offensive threats since returning to Newfoundland following a brief minor-pro career split between Richmond, Va and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In five seasons with the Cats’ (including the eight games played so far this season) Gill has scored 71 goals and added 67 assists for 138 points in 100 regular season games and 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 36 playoff games.
For a someone who didn’t pick up the game until he was 11 years old, Gill’s hockey experience has been part of his maturing process and he’s pretty much satisfied with it.
The six-foot, 190 pounder from Botwood, who plays for the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NSHL), is off to a very quick start this season with 10 goals in eight games.
His 14 points is second league scoring to teammate Rob Hennigar who has 20.
Gill put up some pretty impressive numbers in various places during his career which began with Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League where he scored 109 goals and 226 points in three seasons before moving on to Wilfred Laurier University for one season.
He played a couple of seasons with Richmond, Va., Renegades in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) where he rang up 110 points. That was before playing one season in Holland with the Amsterdam Tigers where he scored 24 goals and registered 54 points in 40 games in the European Non-Elite Hockey League (HIND).
Gill says he credits his fast start in the provincial senior hockey league to “a bit of early chemistry with his linemates Hennigar and Brandon Nicholas,” as well as, “a bit of luck.”
“Obviously, Rob has been a big part because he’s such a good passer,” Gill said of his centreman from Jordan, Ont. “He sees the ice very well.”
The whole line is clicking right now as Nicholas, from Lewisporte, has 10 points in eight games.
“Brandon and I work well together, too,” said Gill, who skates on the right wing.
“We’ve had a number of centremen in between us but we’ve always been able to score.
“I’m not known as a defensive forward, but if your line has good puck possession, then, most of the time, you are in the offensive zone anyway,” he noted.
Over the last couple years and including the early start of this season, Gill has scored 44 goals in the NLSHL with 83 assists and it’s that sort of consistency which has pleased Cataracts coach Shane Luckinchuk.
“He’s been a great local player for us and a leader in the dressing room,” said Lukinchuk. “He does a lot more than just score goals for us.
“He works hard a both ends of the rink,” noted Lukinchuk.
“He’s an offensive guy, but he does a very good job on consistent basis of making sure he does the right thing in the defensive zone. He’s very good at getting the puck out of his zone when the opposition puts on a little pressure.
“His work ethic, his dedication and his overall team play is really the reason he has success, year in and year out,” added Lukinchuk.
Gill said having three good years in junior hockey made him feel like “more was possible” in the game.
“I thought there was another level, but it didn’t quite work out. I played in the U.S. and in Europe, but I realized that hockey wasn‘t going to be my career,” said Gill, who is finishishg off a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Memorial University.
Gill said he had a pretty good year in Europe, but he said the money he was making wasn’t going to be enough to pursue it as a long-term career.
He also said the hockey atmosphere in Amsterdam wasn’t what he was used to and wasn’t what he wanted. The 11 p.m. practice times didn’t help.
“It wasn’t a very stable organization and not as serious as I’d like to be,” he said. “I could have gone back for another year, but they didn’t promise me a raise, so I decided it wasn’t worth it, all things considered.
“I came back to finish university and get my life going that way. I’m playing hockey now in a competitive league with a lot of players I grew up with and I’m having lots of fun.
“I don’t regret most things I did. Yeah, if I could go back, there are couple of couple decisions I would have made differently,” he said, “but I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of things a lot of people didn’t have the chance to do. Hockey has helped me in my life and it will continue to do so, I believe.”
The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts lead the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League with a 7-1 record for 14 points. The Cats are two points up on the Clarenville Caribous who they will host Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium.
Gill said Clarenville is strong every year and “built quite similar to us, so it should be a good, fast weekend of hockey, for sure.”
And Lukinchuk is also looking forward to the series which, he says, will be a good gauge for both teams going forward.