Alumni Reunion: Jim Nill
|Jim Nill played nine NHL seasons with five different clubs, including the Red Wings from 1987-90. A forward, Nill produced 11 goals and 20 assists in Detroit.|
Like his son five years ago, Jim Nill was also a late-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues.
However, the eldest Nill’s stay in the nation’s heartland was short-lived. A bargaining chip in a trade-deadline deal with the Canucks, Nill was shipped to Vancouver in March 1982, where he helped his new team reach the Stanley Cup finals. Unfortunately for the Canucks, they were swept by the New York Islanders.
Trevor Nill, a center who played collegiately at Michigan State, was selected by the Blues in the seventh round of the 2007 draft.
Nill enjoyed a nine-year NHL career as a right wing having also played for the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and Red Wings. He spent his final 2 ½ seasons in Detroit uniform after being acquired from Winnipeg for Mark Kumpel in 1988.
Nill compiled 58 goals, 87 assists and 854 penalty minutes in 524 regular-season games. He later went to Adirondack as a player/coach, and retired as a player after the 1990-91 season.
Now entering his 19th season as a member of the Red Wings’ front office team – and 15th as assistant general manager – Nill recently sat down for an interview with DetroitRedWings.com to discuss his playing days, particularly his time in Detroit.
QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
NILL: “Yes, very regularly because of the coaching circles, guys like Gerard Gallant, the scouting circles with Harold Snepsts, who works for Vancouver, and a lot of former teammates at the games here like Shawn Burr and Lee Norwood, and Doug Halward when I get down to Vancouver. There’s Dave Barr and Adam Oates, who are coaching, and I talk to Mel Bridgman, Tim Higgins and Paul MacLean quite a bit. Quite a few guys when you start thinking about it.”
Q. What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
NILL: “Probably the two years that I was here we went each year to the Final Four. We played Edmonton both years in ’87 and ’88. We had two great series against them and both times we probably deserved a little better fate, but they were a highly skilled team and we played well against them.”
Q. Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
NILL: “We’re going to have to split this one between Joey Kocur and Bob Probert. They both were different fights and both unique in the way that they did it. Joey was a heavier puncher who would do damage. Probie would just wear you out and just beat you.”
Q. Who was the funniest?
NILL: “That would have been Tim Higgins, just a great sense of humor and always at the right time. He knew when to say something at the right time, he was good.”
Q. Who had the biggest heart?
NILL: “That was a pretty big-hearted team, but I’m going to say Steve Yzerman. To go through what he went through with his injuries, he had to have a big heart. He loved the game.”
Q. What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?
NILL: “It was the Italian place off the Mack exit, Romo Café. We used to go there all of the time, and they still do.”
Q. How has the NHL changed since you played?
NILL: “The speed of the game, it’s so much faster that it’s unbelievable. I would have changed my style. Back when I played you could hook guys in the neutral zone. That was your plan, when you were checking guys you would just hook right on to them and slow them down. That’s changed.”
Q. Toughest team (other than the Red Wings) when you played?
NILL: “I’d probably say Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, all tough teams.”
Q. What is your favorite Red Wings-Maple Leafs memory?
NILL: “Probably the year that we beat them in the playoffs in 1988. It was a big rivalry, just a big series that helped us get going again.”
Q. Who did you sit next to in the dressing room?
NILL: “Steve Yzerman, and Steve Chiasson was on the other side.”
Q. What do you love most about the game?
NILL: “The people, just solid, down-to-earth people in the game. People that care about other people.”
Q. Who had the greatest influence on your career?
NILL: “First of all my parents, just to let me enjoy the game. But then I had a gentleman named Tony Coleman when I played in Junior B hockey, he played a little bit of semi-pro. In today’s game he would have been a real good player. He was a very strong influence.”
Q. What was your first NHL game that you attended?
NILL: “I was from a small town in Alberta, and until they got hockey in Calgary, I wasn’t going anywhere. But back in the WHA days I went to see the Calgary Cowboys play the Edmonton Oilers with my dad and my brother. It was at the Calgary Corral, probably about 5,800-6,000 people max, and it seemed like it was so big, it was huge at that age. It was then that I knew that I wanted to play hockey.”