“Its not how tall he is, it’s how tall he plays.”
Strong words from Sabres Head Coach Dan Bylsma about his captain Brian Gionta.
Standing just 5’7”, Gionta is set to become only the 43rd American born hockey player to skate in 1,000 career NHL games.
“I think when you look back on your career when you’re done playing, when youre retired, thats when everything kinda sets it, but I’ve had a long journey, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it and I hope that there is many more,” said Gionta.
The Rochester native is an 18 year veteran in the NHL and talking to current teammates and coaches they can’t say enough good things about Gionta.
“Its no shocker when you look at how he brings himself to the rink every morning, the way he conducts himself on a daily basis and treats his body, he does all the right things so it’s no surprise that he’s made it this far in his career,” explained Sabres forward Sam Reinhart
“The true professionalism of what Brian brings to the game, how he prepares, how he works, that’s something we can and all should learn from,” echoed Bylsma
Line mate Marcus Foligno smiled ear to ear on Monday when talking about ‘Gio’ after the Sabres morning skate.
“Great in the community, great as a leader, everyone in this room looks up to him so a tremendous amount of respect for that guy and it’s an honor to be apart of his 1000th game”
At the beginning of his hockey journey, Gionta laughed and said there were plenty of doubters along the way and remembers one coach in particular.
“My Old high school soccer coach, when I quit soccer to focus on hockey full time he was like ‘Oh I think you’re making a mistake,’ I feel bad for him now, I would never show it too him and I don’t mean it in his face but just one of those things that I think i’m pretty happy I choose hockey,” Gionta said with a smile.
The Greece native and Aquinas Institute grad said it’s special to play his 1,000th game so close to home and that he reserved two suites Monday night for all of his family and friends.