There are a few things Crushers fans might not know about Michael Dill.
For starters, his grandfather was the late Howard Dill, the famous giant pumpkin grower in Windsor.
“I’d be there almost every day when I was in elementary school – my dad was working there and that’s where he lives now, running the farm. There was always lots of pumpkin pie around in the fall.”
A little body of water on that farm – Long Pond, as it is called – is a part of Canadian history: many believe it to be the place where hockey was born.
“It used to be a lot bigger, but now it's the size of a small rink,” says Dill, who admits that as he gets older, he can better appreciate the significance of the place where he played shinny.
“I grew up skating on it since I was a little boy, and everyone always referred to it as the birthplace of hockey. So there’s lots of history with it.”
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Dill is a tennis coach during the summer. He won a Tennis Nova Scotia coaching award this year for his junior program at a club in Windsor, where he teaches about 80 kids.
“That was a cool surprise,” he says.
His coaching philosophy when working with the kids?
“You have to make it fun for them. It’s like any sport: if they don’t enjoy it, why do it?”
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Hockey scouting is not an exact science: Dill was not drafted by a major junior team out of Midget hockey (in 2014, the Crushers didn’t even select him until the fourth round of the draft).
“You’re growing up and you get overlooked for Hockey Nova Scotia camps and you see all your friends get drafted to major junior – that was kind of tough. It happens to a lot of kids, but it worked out in the end for me.”
It did, indeed.
Wanting to maintain his U.S. college eligibility, Dill stayed away from major junior teams once they took real notice of him during his rookie year in junior. This past September, he made a verbal commitment to play next season with the UMass Lowell River Hawks, a growing NCAA hockey power.
“They showed the most interest,” says Dill, who hasn’t decided what he will study once he gets there.
“They made an effort to come watch games at the start of the season and it seemed like it would be a great place to play.”
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Back in 2015, Dill showed up at Crushers training camp, unsure if he’d even stick with the Junior A club.
“I guess I had an idea, but you never know. I just came here and didn’t know if I was going to make the team or not, honestly,” says Dill, who would be named the MHL’s rookie of the year after an outstanding first season of junior (25 goals, 26 assist in 47 games). In his sophomore year, he claimed the MHL scoring title with 90 points (32G, 58A).
Prior to the start of the current season, he was named captain of the Crushers.
“First and foremost, it’s his character,” coach Doug Doull says.
“He’s a low-maintenance guy, a good example for the young players. You don’t have to have pom-poms on the bench (and) I’m not looking for Tony Robbins in the dressing room, I’m looking for Mike Dill.”
The captain appreciates the support the Crushers get from their fans, and recognizes that the players are role models for young fans who look up to them.
“I’ll miss playing here next year,” says Dill. “It’s been the best three years of my life.”