Chris Gill was one of the great B.C. lacrosse players of his generation. Next season, he’ll start proving himself as a coach.
Gill has been named the new bench boss for the Maple Ridge Burrards, beginning in the 2014 season.
He takes on a Burrards team that is considered well stocked with young talent, but still learning how to win.
Gill knows the Burrards well. He has played with many of the guys, has coached against them when he was an assistant with the New Westminster Salmonbellies for two seasons, and the Pitt Meadows resident has watched his hometown team as a fan in the stands.
Gill likes the talent level.
“They’ve had a good team the last few years, they have drafted well. The pieces are in place, player-wise.”
He likes the team toughness.
“They’re all men. They know what it takes.”
He likes having leading scorer Curtis Dickson.
“He’s the best player in the world.”
“Look what he puts up there – he’s a stud. You ask 30 coaches, and 20 would pick him to start their team.”
Despite those assets, the Burrards ended the season a ship on the rocks.
The losing record of eight wins and 10 losses does nothing to describe the highs and lows of last season. The Burrards started the campaign 4-1, and were talked about as one of the elite teams in the Western Lacrosse Association.
But they scuffled into mediocrity by mid-season, and finally collapsed with a stretch of five straight losses in their last six games that knocked them out of the playoffs. Four of those five critical losses were by a single goal.
Gill believes the team needs better focus and mental toughness. He has concrete plans, but wouldn’t tip his hand in the media.
“You put players in the right place at the right time, and let players be players.”
The Burrards brass heard his ideas, and obviously liked them.
Gill takes over from Daren Fridge, who retains half of his title of head coach/general manager.
“Chris’ craftiness around the crease will now transfer in his role as head coach. He interviewed very well and has some very creative plans to address some of our challenges from last season,” said Fridge.
“We were looking for a dynamic leader with valuable experience at the highest level of lacrosse, and Chris is exactly what we are seeking.”
The Gill name alone brings credibility to the Burrards. He’s virtually lacrosse royalty. His father Sohen Gill is in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, which calls him “the hardest-working man in B.C. Lacrosse.” He was inducted as a builder. Among Sohen’s many exploits at every level of the game, he spent five years as the coach and manager of the Burrards.
The younger Gill racked up 482 goals and 351 assists in 282 WLA games. His teams made the playoffs nine times and he was a Mann Cup finalist on two occasions.
On top of that, he had a decorated National Lacrosse League career with stops in Baltimore, Toronto, Vancouver, Colorado, Edmonton and Calgary. Along the way, he raised the Champions Cup three times and he recorded 557 points in 173 career NLL games. He retired from the NLL in 2010 from Colorado Mammoth.
“Chris is the consummate professional,” said Mammoth president Steve Govett. “He played his role over the course of his entire career as well as any of the best to ever play the game. I’m quite certain he’s destined for the hall of fame.”
Gill agreed the Burrards coaching position is a great opportunity for a new coach looking to make his mark.
“A hundred per cent – you don’t want to go to a team that is on its last legs. You want a team that’s young and eager and wants to win. If you want to coach in this league, this is where you want to be.
“I’m excited to be part of the team, and we’re looking at taking a run at the Mann Cup this year, and for the next 10 years,” he added.
“It seems like the season’s a long way away, but I can’t wait for it to start.”