One of the better hockey players to come out of Lewiston-Auburn area in recent memory, he starred for Edward Little High School and performed well for the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, it took four years to find a new sport to fill his time like hockey did in his youth.

The sport? Golf.

“I really picked it up about five years ago,” Gilbert said. “I just fell in love with it. It gave me the competition like hockey (gave me). It got me back into competitive sports, so I jumped into it. The correlation between golf and hockey is quite similar.”

Hockey players tend to do well in a sport at which most people struggle. Among the best examples of hockey-to-golf transference is former NHLer Dan Quinn, who played in the league in from 1983-1997. He has won the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic five times, second all-time in wins behind former Major League pitcher Rick Rhoden (8). Quinn has also caddied on the PGA Tour for Ernie Els, John Daly and Joost Luiten.

Gilbert likes the strategy of golf, and you can be aggressive, like in hockey.

“If you can hit the ball far, you can reach the par-5s in two,” Gilbert said. “You can make the game however you want. I like to make eagles and birdies and that’s what I try to do.”

He also likes that it’s a sport in which there is constant improvement, if you put in the work.

For now making eagles and birdies is more rewarding than scoring goals, but, he said, both feats are enjoyable.

Gilbert started playing when he got a job at Fox Ridge.

“I got a job and I wasn’t much of a golfer, I played a couple times when I was a kid,” Gilbert said. “I picked it back up and started to play with the guys, and I enjoyed the sport of golf. Now I am addicted.”

He credits local golfers Craig Chapman, Andrew Slattery and Rick Dostie as some of the guys who helped him learn the sport. Playing with them, some of the top golfers in the area, and practicing a lot has helped him pick you the sport quickly.

Gilbert, 30, considers himself a weekend warrior, playing in the early mornings on Saturdays and Sundays. He also plays in a Wednesday night league at Fox Ridge. 

“I enjoy the competitive side of golf because, like I said, it goes back to my competitive days in hockey, but I also enjoy meeting new people, playing with new people,” Gilbert said. “It’s a sport you can go and play with anyone. That’s what make it enjoyable.”

Gilbert, who helped Edward Little to back-to-back Class A state championships in 2003 and 2004, said he doesn’t play with his former teammates. After his high school career was over, he became the first of two local players to skate for the Maineiacs — the other was Eric Bonawitz, during the 2009-10 season.

In his lone season with the Maineiacs in 2004-2005, Gilbert potted five goals and 15 assists in 59 games.

And while he hasn’t played with any former teammates, but keeps in touch with Alex Picard, who was the Maineiacs’ first NHL first-round draft pick in 2004. Picard now plays in Switzerland. The topic of golf comes up from time to time when they speak.

“I speak with him once in a while over the internet,” Gilbert said. “He does play golf, we haven’t gotten to play together, but I think he should stick to hockey. We have talked about golf before and he has told me, sometimes he breaks 100.”

Employed at his family’s business, Custom Mill Work in Turner, his commitments don’t allow him to play in weekly Maine State Golf Association tournaments. He did try to attempt to qualify for the Maine Amateur for the second straight year in June, and he nearly made it, firing a 77 at Poland Spring.

“It was the second time I tried,” Gilbert said. “I tried the year before, it was a rainy day that year and it wasn’t good. “I went back to Poland Spring this year and I shot the number. I shot 77, and that was the number to qualify. Unfortunately they pushed me back from matching cards, which is unfortunate. Hey, I went out did what I could, I shot the number, I just missed it by (one). My goal next year is hopefully is to get in.”

He was an alternate, but wasn’t called upon to play at York Golf and Tennis Club for the 97th Maine Amateur.

But playing in an actual tournament brought the competitive juices out.

“It felt like coming out of the locker room going to game seven in the playoffs to be honest with you,” Gilbert said. “It was that type of feeling when you are playing competitive golf, you can’t make a mistake. Every shot counts.”

After playing for the Maineiacs, Gilbert played for the Antigonish Bulldogs of the Maritime Junior “A” Hockey League in his final season of junior eligibility. He was second on the team in points with 35 goals and 44 assists in 52 games.

He spent 2006-07 in the low minors with the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League, and with the Jacksonville Barracudas of the Southern Professional Hockey League. He played in a handful of games for both teams.

“You always want to get to the top of your game no matter how you get there,” Gilbert said. “Hockey is a tough sport and it’s very physical — sometimes when you been through enough injuries and you’ve done all that, the door isn’t open for you, it’s time to hang them up. I did do that. Did I reach the highest potential I wanted to? No, I didn’t. But did I go far enough to enjoy the game? Yeah, I did.”

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