It’s been quite some time, but Tom Gilbert still remembers playing at Giant Center as a member of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before getting called up to the NHL, and quite honestly, he looks a lot better in Hershey colors! “Yeah, I know, I know,” chuckled Gilbert. “It’s been awhile, and trust me, with the memories I have in this place playing against the Bears, it’s nice to be on this side.”
Gilbert, who played 48 games with the Penguins before making it big with the Edmonton Oilers, is not unhappy to have landed in Hershey at all, especially because he’s looking to make a return to the highest level of hockey after an injury forced season-ending knee surgery just a year ago.
“First of all this is a great organization, both the Caps and the Bears. The opportunity to come here has been awesome, everyone has treated me really well, and the communication has been really good,” Gilbert said. They’ve talked to me about my game. I mean, they’ve seen me plenty (in the NHL), but I haven’t really played a whole lot of games this year, and when you’re out of the lineup and don’t play for some time, you kind of lose it a little bit. It’s just nice to get some flow back to my game.”
And he knows that the Capitals have some pretty good odds of making a long run into the playoffs, and if there is room for him, well, he’s more than okay with that, and while he has not yet rocked the red with the Caps, he knows what it takes to be an NHL defenseman.
His time in the NHL started in Edmonton during the 2006-2007 where he appeared in 12 games. He then played 82 games each of the next three seasons in Edmonton and 79 during the 2010-2011 season. The following year, he was traded to Minnesota.
“It was actually a complete surprise. I didn’t know I was going to get traded. Usually you catch wind a little bit if you’re going to be on the radar,” Gilbert said. “Just out of all the teams I could get traded to, my phone was blowing up with family and friends, but it was bittersweet. I had a great time in Edmonton, but then to be going to Minnesota, it was just exciting to have my family around – it was really neat for me.”
With family and friends around, Gilbert stayed in Minnesota for the remainder of 2011-2012 and the following year and enjoyed having family and friends at each game watching him play. Another perk of being back in Minnesota was the ability to attend family dinners among other things.
“I’m very fortunate, I think, in my career with the places I’ve played. Every place has been great whether it’s been organization-wise or location-wise,” he said.
Along with Minnesota, another great place that Gilbert has been was LA, where he was right up until being traded to the Capitals and reassigned to Hershey.
“LA is a great spot. My family loved it; they’re actually still out there right now, kind of waiting to see here what’s going on, but they’ve had great success, so it was a great opportunity for me to go out there,” he said. “It’s a nice spot to live, the way of life is great, the team is good. Obviously the situation didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but that happens, that’s just part of the business, but just getting out there was great.”
Now in the lineup for the Hershey Bears, Gilbert is eying an opportunity to help out the Capitals should the call come.
As with our other prospects, I asked Tom to finish a few sentences I started. His situation warranted a modification of some.
So far, my thoughts on the town of Hershey – I can only sit in the hotel for so long, so I’ve been trying to go out a little bit. I’m kind of a big foodie, so that’s been the biggest surprise, I’ve been to a handful of restaurants and they’ve all been great. Obviously I haven’t ventured out too much. I’m kind of waiting for my family to get here. I’m staying at the Lodge and they have that great waterpark that my two-year-old son would love. While I’m here I might as well go visit the Hershey attractions. But for now I’m just kind of hopping around places to eat and that’s been great.
The teammate I would never want to fight – I played with a guy named Steve McIntyre and that’s one guy I would never, ever want to fight.
The player I tried or try to model game after – There’s so many great players. A guy that was always fun to watch for me was Lindstrom just because he made the game look so easy. It was fun to watch, but also frustrating because he made it look so easy. He was one guy that I always tried to watch as much as I could to see what he was doing on the ice to make it look easy. His positioning, his stick, he’s just a good guy to watch actually for any player even nowadays to go back and watch him.
I started playing hockey when I was – Probably when I was 5 or 6 – It’s a Minnesota thing – it’s weird because my parents never played or anything, so I don’t know how I picked it up, but I did.
My favorite sport other than hockey – Probably golf
If I was not playing hockey I’d – I’m just a very competitive guy, I just like any kind of game, so I think I’d probably stick with sports. I’d probably want to be the best golfer.
My worst road trip memory – This one right here, this three-in-three is up there right now. That’s a good question. I’m trying to think if there were ever any delays. It’s very different in a bus, I mean I’ve been there before, so it’s nothing new, but when you play three-in-three though and you go on the road, back home, and then on the road, it gets a little bit long, but every team out here, that’s how it is, and that’s how it was back when I first started in the league, so it is what it is. I mean these have been tough.
And with that, he got up to board the bus to Bridgeport.
By Julie Beidler
— Beids (@juliebeidler) February 25, 2017