Gill: ‘Big Bad Bruins’ image tough to live up to

Former Bruins defenceman Hal Gill, talked about the expectations that come with being a “Big Bad Bruin.” (Charles Krupa/AP)

With great stature comes great responsibility — and expectations of a certain style of play.

Just ask longtime NHL big man Hal Gill.

While the six-foot-seven, 243-pound defenceman certainly used his size to his advantage throughout his 16 seasons in the league, he didn’t take on the role traditionally played by players of his size — a fact that wasn’t always received well in Boston.

Gill talked to a Boston radio station about the “Big Bad Bruins mantra,” saying that “it can be tough at times.”

“[It] can be tough. I had my share of fights, but it was never good enough,” Gill told “[It was,] ‘You should have beaten up [5-foot-8] Tie Domi.’ It was unrealistic, but that’s what the Bruins fans want. That’s the Big Bad Bruins mantra.

“In Montreal, I was amazed,” added Gill, who spent two and a half seasons with the Canadiens. “When I was there, they would cheer because I made a nice poke check. They would say, ‘Wow, that was a great poke check.’ With the Bruins, you could play a great game defensively, but if you didn’t kill someone or you didn’t get a big goal, they can pile on you. It’s a different market, but a lot has changed since I was there.”

Gill wasn’t just referring to himself. New Bruin Jimmy Hayes fits the big-man mold but — similar to Gill — doesn’t have the style of play or penalty minutes to match.

The six-foot-six, 221-pound right winger has just 54 penalty minutes in 168 games split between the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks, and risks falling to those same assumptions that other big men have encountered before him.

Gill says Hayes will be just fine if he plays his game and focuses on what matters most: scoring goals.

“If [Hayes] is doing the right things and keeping true to his game, he’ll be all right,” Gill said. “The problem is when you get caught up trying to please everyone.”

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