Mike Gillis

Michael David Gillis (born December 1, 1958) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. He was born in Sudbury, Ontario.

Mike Gillis
Gillis in 2009
Born (1958-12-01) December 1, 1958 (age 61)
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Height 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight 195 lb (88 kg; 13 st 13 lb)
Position Left Wing
Shot Left
Played for Colorado Rockies
Boston Bruins
NHL Draft 5th overall, 1978
Colorado Rockies
Playing career 1978–1984

Playing careerEdit

Gillis spent his junior hockey career with the Kingston Canadians of the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League (OMJHL) from 1975 to 1978, playing in 111 games and scoring 132 points (39 goals and 93 assists). He added on 18 points (four goals and 14 assists) in 12 playoff games. Gillis missed most of the 1976–77 season due to a leg injury. He was then drafted in the first round, fifth overall, by the Colorado Rockies in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft.

In the 1978–79 season, Gillis played two games with the Philadelphia Firebirds of the American Hockey League (AHL), scoring no points; he also spent 30 games with the Rockies, earning eight points (one goal and seven assists). He split the 1979–80 season with the Rockies, scoring four goals and five assists in 40 games, and the Fort Worth Texans of the CHL, with 22 points (nine goals and 13 assists) in 29 games. Gillis started the 1980–81 season with Colorado, and had 18 points in 51 games before being sent to the Boston Bruins for Bob Miller. Gillis then scored six points in 17 games for a total of 24 points, which would be his career high. Gillis also appeared in a playoff game, going pointless.

In 1981–82, Gillis then registered 17 points in 53 games, and earned three points (1G-2A) in 11 playoff games. He spent the majority of the 1982–83 season with the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL, getting 113 points (32 goals and 81 assists) in 74 games, good for fourth in AHL scoring. He also played five games with Boston, earning an assist, then played 12 playoff games for the Bruins, earning four points. Gillis split the 1983–84 season with the Bruins, scoring 17 points in 50 games, and with the Hershey Bears of the AHL, getting 29 points in 26 games. He played three playoff games with Boston, getting no points.

Gillis retired from professional hockey in the summer of 1984.

Post-playing careerEdit


Upon retiring from playing hockey, Gillis coached the Queen's University Golden Gaels hockey team in 1985–86. He then earned a law degree from Queen's University in 1990 and became a player agent. His clientele over the years included Pavel Bure, Markus Näslund, Bobby Holík, and Mike Richter, among others.

In 1997, Gillis successfully sued former National Hockey League Players' Association executive director Alan Eagleson for $570,000 for stealing a portion of his disability insurance.[1][2] The charges were among many against Eagleson uncovered by Russ Conway.

General managerEdit

With the firing of Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis at the end of the 2007–08 season, Gillis was introduced by the organization as Nonis' successor on April 23, 2008.[3] Entering into the free agent market as a general manager for the first time in July 2008, Gillis made immediate changes. He chose not to re-sign former client and longtime Canucks captain Markus Näslund, nor forward Brendan Morrison. He then made an aggressive pitch for unrestricted free agent center Mats Sundin with a two-year, $20 million offer; the deal would have made him the highest paid player in the NHL.[4] Sundin decided against signing with any team until midway through the subsequent season, but eventually accepted a one-year, pro-rated $8.6 million offer on December 18, 2008.[5] Several months later, before the 2008–09 NHL trade deadline, Gillis re-signed emerging forward Alexandre Burrows to a four-year, $8 million contract on March 3, 2009, substantially raising his previous $525,000 annual salary.[6] Burrows was, at the time, in the midst of a career-season in which he scored 28 goals and 51 points, only to follow up with a career season the next year by scoring 35 goals and 67 points.

After winning a Northwest Division title and making it as far as Game 6 of the second round in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, Gillis continued to re-sign key players. With the Canucks' leading scorers Daniel and Henrik Sedin set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2009, Gillis flew to Sweden to negotiate with the twins, ultimately signing them to identical five-year, $30.5 million deals hours before the free agency period was set to begin.[7] Soon thereafter, negotiations began with star goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was entering the final year of his original four-year deal with the Canucks. Several days after Luongo gave the Canucks a September 13 deadline to come to an agreement before ceasing negotiations for the upcoming season, Gillis signed him to a 12-year, $64 million contract extension on September 2.[8] Other significant signings in the 2009 off-season included unrestricted free agent Mikael Samuelsson from the Detroit Red Wings and Canucks prospect Sergei Shirokov from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).[9][10]

Gillis' first noteworthy trade occurred on August 28, 2009, when he sent prospect forwards Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich. Of the two defencemen acquired, the younger Ehrhoff proved to be the centrepiece of the deal. San Jose's primary motivation to send him away was to clear salary cap space in anticipation of their acquisition of star forward Dany Heatley from the Ottawa Senators. For the Canucks, Ehrhoff's acquisition addressed the need for a puck-moving defenceman to move play out of the defensive zone.[11] Ehrhoff went on to lead the Canucks defencemen in scoring that season.

In the midst of Gillis' off-season transactions, the Canucks were involved in a pair of tampering incidents with Toronto Maple Leafs management. The first incident occurred in late June 2009, when Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson publicized the club's intentions to pursue the Sedin twins if Gillis could not re-sign them before the free agency period began.[12] Several months later, in September, a Leafs TV documentary program covering June's 2009 NHL Entry Draft featured Toronto general manager Brian Burke indicating that Gillis had pursued the Tampa Bay Lightning's second overall pick for a package consisting of defenceman Kevin Bieksa, forward Alexandre Burrows and their first-round selection.[12] Although the segment was eventually pulled off-air, Gillis filed tampering charges against the Maple Leafs near the beginning of the 2009–10 season for both incidents.[13] The NHL fined Wilson US$10,000 for his part in tampering with the Sedins, while Burke and the Leafs management were given a warning for the draft incident.[12]

That season, the Canucks went on to win the Northwest Division title, but lost in the second round to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 playoffs, both for the second consecutive year under Gillis.

In the off-season, Gillis made significant defensive acquisitions, trading for Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers (in exchange for a first-round draft pick Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier) and signing Dan Hamhuis ($27 million over six years). Gillis also signed third-line centre Manny Malhotra. While Hamhuis and Malhotra became integral parts of the Canucks' successful season in 2010–11, Ballard struggled to remain in the lineup with injuries and numerous bouts of healthy scratches. Meanwhile, Grabner became a Calder Memorial Trophy nominee that season as the NHL's top rookie. In goal, Gillis had re-signed prospect Cory Schneider in the off-season, as well. Backing up Roberto Luongo as a rookie, the duo won the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltending tandem with the fewest goals against in the League. Gillis' transactions were instrumental in the Canucks' first Presidents' Trophy, leading the NHL with the best regular season record in 2010–11, and he was personally awarded with the League's inaugural NHL General Manager of the Year Award. The Canucks advanced all the way to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, where they fell to the Boston Bruins in seven games after taking a 3–2 series lead. It has been noted, however, that the players arguably most instrumental in their Finals appearance — the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows, Alexander Edler, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider — were already in the Canucks' organization when Gillis took over as general manager from his predecessor, Dave Nonis.[14]

In the 2011–12 season, the Canucks defended their Presidents' Trophy title, but lost to the eighth-seeded (and eventual Cup champions) Los Angeles Kings in five games during the opening round of the playoffs. That season saw Cory Schneider usurp Roberto Luongo as the team's starting goaltender. Luongo started the first two games due to Schneider's injury and played well but his team lost both. Head Coach Alain Vigneault opted to start Schneider for the rest of the series in order to give the Canucks some momentum,[15] and Luongo remained on the bench for the remainder of the series as the Kings won four games to one. Dressing as a backup for the Canucks' final three playoff games led many in the media to believe that Luongo would be traded in the off-season, in favour of Schneider, who recorded stronger regular season and playoff statistics than him in 2011–12.[16] Asked about his role with the Canucks following the defeat, Luongo told reporters that he would waive his no-trade clause if management asked him to.[17] In June 2012, Schneider was signed to a three-year, $12 million contract, which made Luongo expendable, but Gillis' efforts to trade Luongo were unsuccessful due to his hefty US$64 million, 12-year contract, a contract that Gillis has since been criticized for negotiating.[18]

In the 2012–13 season, which was shortened by a lockout, the Canucks finished with a record of 26–15–7 and won the Northwest Division title. However, they were eliminated in four-straight games by the San Jose Sharks during the opening round of the playoffs, the second consecutive first round playoff exit. Gillis was criticized by The Globe and Mail's Allan Maki as he "dithered with goalie Roberto Luongo and should have traded him for help at forward but didn’t. Instead, Gillis acquired Derek Roy at the trade deadline and thought that was enough. Gillis’s decision to get Zack Kassian doesn’t look good, either, but the GM will survive." Maki said that the "team, with its aging core and limited prospects, is in need of new direction, new leadership. It’s that time," just two years after its Stanley Cup Finals appearance.[19] Afterwards, Gillis fired Head Coach Alain Vigneault, Associate Coach Rick Bowness and Assistant Coach Newell Brown.[20] Gillis also continued to try to trade Luongo, who still had nine years left on his 12-year contract, which represented a $5.33 million annual salary cap hit.[18][21]

John Tortorella was hired to replace Vigneault as head coach, a decision that Gillis later suggested had been at the insistence of Canucks Owner Francesco Aquilini. At the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Gillis traded goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth overall draft pick, which he subsequently used to draft Bo Horvat from the London Knights. Gillis took a lot of criticism from fans and season-ticket holders, as the Canucks did poorly and slid out of playoff contention during the latter half of the 2013–14 season. Gillis was questioned on his personnel moves, such as trading Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers, which, combined with the earlier Schneider trade, had left the team without a proven number one goaltender, instead relying on the largely untested Eddie Läck.[22]

On April 8, 2014, Gillis was relieved of his duties as president and GM of the Vancouver Canucks by owner Francesco Aquilini; Aquilini had been said to be very hands-on in day-to-day management of the club.[23][24] This came right after the Canucks were eliminated from the 2014 playoffs, and as season ticket renewal levels had dropped off. Gillis was succeeded by former Canucks captain Trevor Linden, who was hired the next day as president of hockey operations. It had been reported that Gillis and Linden had such a poor relationship that Linden stayed away from the Canucks after retiring as a player.[14][25][26][27]


Gillis is the brother of Paul Gillis. He is the uncle of professional hockey players Matt and Adam Pelech.

Career statisticsEdit

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1975–76 Kingston Canadians OMJHL 64 16 45 61 34 7 1 2 3 11
1976–77 Kingston Canadians OMJHL 4 2 2 4 4
1977–78 Kingston Canadians OMJHL 43 21 46 67 86 5 3 12 15 0
1978–79 Colorado Rockies NHL 30 1 7 8 6
1978–79 Philadelphia Firebirds AHL 2 0 0 0 0
1979–80 Colorado Rockies NHL 40 4 5 9 22
1979–80 Fort Worth Texans CHL 29 9 13 22 43
1980–81 Colorado Rockies NHL 51 11 7 18 54
1980–81 Boston Bruins NHL 17 2 4 6 15 1 0 0 0 0
1981–82 Boston Bruins NHL 53 9 8 17 54 11 1 2 3 6
1982–83 Boston Bruins NHL 5 0 1 1 0 12 1 3 4 2
1982–83 Baltimore Skipjacks AHL 74 32 81 113 33
1983–84 Boston Bruins NHL 50 6 11 17 35 3 0 0 0 2
1983–84 Hershey Bears AHL 26 8 21 29 13
NHL totals 246 33 43 76 186 27 2 5 7 10
AHL totals 102 40 102 142 46


  1. ^ MAKI, ALLAN. "Trying to pick up the pieces". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  2. ^ Staff, Sportsnet. "Canucks find GM in player agent Gillis". Sportsnet. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Canucks choose Gillis as general manager". CBC Sports. 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
  4. ^ "Sundin needs more time to decide future". NHL. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-07-05.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Sundin giving Canucks $1.4m discount". Vancouver Sun. 2008-12-19. Archived from the original on 2008-12-20. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  6. ^ "Canucks lock up Burrows ahead of deadline". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
  7. ^ "Canucks commit $61M to Sedins". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
  8. ^ "Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks agree to 12-year, $64 million contract extension". ESPN. 2009-09-02. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
  9. ^ "Canucks sign Red Wings' Samuelsson". Vancouver Sun. 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2009-09-16.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Canucks sign winger Shirokov". The Globe and Mail. 2009-08-18. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
  11. ^ "Ehrhoff earning rave reviews on canucks defense". National Hockey League. 2010-01-15. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  12. ^ a b c "No love lost between GMs Burke and Gillis". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  13. ^ "Report: Canucks to file tampering charges against Maple Leafs". The Sports Network. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  14. ^ a b Duhatschek, Eric (April 8, 2014). "Why Mike Gillis deserved to be fired". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  15. ^ "NHL Playoffs: Vancouver Canucks' decision to sit Roberto Luongo 'incredibly difficult'". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2013-05-11.
  16. ^ Botchford, Jason (2012-04-19). "Cory Schneider Canucks' top dog, so long Luongo". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2012-04-24.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Luongo: I'll waive my no-trade clause if I'm asked to". The Sports Network. 2012-04-24. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
  18. ^ a b "Roberto Luongo says goodbye (again) to Vancouver". CBC Sports. May 10, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  19. ^ "Maki: Looking for Canucks blame? Look no further than Mike Gillis".
  20. ^ "Alain Vigneault relieved of coaching duties".
  21. ^ "Roberto Luongo's contract hurts both him and Canucks". National Post. Archived from the original on 2013-06-29. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  22. ^ "Vancouver Canucks collapse causes fan backlash". CBC News. March 11, 2014.
  23. ^ "Mike Gillis fired as General Manager, President of Canucks". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  24. ^ "Mike Gillis relieved of president & GM duties". Vancouver Canucks. NHL. April 8, 2014.
  25. ^ "Linden picked to quell fan revolt, revive wayward team".
  26. ^ "Turmoil in Vancouver: GM's firing highlights pressures of being a Canadian NHL owner".
  27. ^ Wharnsby, Tim (April 8, 2014). "Mike Gillis deserved to be fired after Canucks imploded". CBC Sports.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Barry Beck
Colorado Rockies first round draft pick
Succeeded by
Rob Ramage
Preceded by
Dave Nonis
General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks
Succeeded by
Jim Benning