Brian Joseph Gionta
Born January 18, 1979 (age 32) in Rochester, New York, USA
Right winger and captain of the Montreal Canadiens
Here’s to Gio, the second shortest player in the NHL (he’s 5’7″; Nathan Gerbe is the shortest at 5’5″). After playing high school hockey at Aquinas Institute, he went on to Boston College, where he stayed even after he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1998. He eventually led them to the national championship in his senior year in 2001 – he was captain even then! After graduation, he joined the Devils via their AHL team, the Albany River Rats (now the Albany Devils) and split 70 games between them and New Jersey in his first year. A year after he made the roster, he was part of the Devils team that won the Stanley Cup Championship in 2003! In the Year That Never Was, he played with Albany before rejoining the Devils the next season. And he even played for Team USA in the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Brian spent three more years with the Devils, even scoring the very first goal in the Prudential Center in Newark. In 2009, he signed a five-year contract with the Habs, which reunited him with his former Devils teammate and linemate Scott Gomez. He was named captain of the team shortly before the start of the 2010-11 season, making him their second American-born captain and the first American captain to hold that title all by himself; Chris Chelios had been captain before but shared that title with Guy Carbonneau. He had 46 points in all 82 games last season, and even though he and the team are off to a wobbly start this fall, I’m sure they’ll surge ahead.
Brian’s one of three brothers – his older brother went to Aquinas Institute, while his brother Stephen played for Boston College and the Albany Devils (he’s still there). His mom and dad? They still live in Rochester. How can you dislike this guy, huh?