Brian Joseph Gionta (born January 18, 1979) is an American professional ice hockey player and team captain of the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League (NHL). He goes by the nickname “Gio” from his teammates and The Rochester Rocket, dubbed by the media. Although small in stature compared to most other players, he is known for his tenacious play.
Gionta was drafted 82nd overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. The diminutive but fiery forward attended high school at the Aquinas Institute in Rochester, NY, then skated for Boston College from 1997 to 2001, winning a National Championship as Eagles captain in the 2000–2001 season. He was mentored by current Atlanta Thrashers forward Marty Reasoner; also a Rochester, NY native; and enjoyed his best statistical season in his freshman year on a line with Reasoner, posting 30 goals and 62 points in 40 games as the Eagles fell to the University of Michigan in the National Championship game in Boston.
Gionta followed up with a 60 point season his sophomore year as BC was eliminated by Hockey East rival, the University of Maine in the Frozen Four semifinals, then a 33 goal, 56 point season in his junior year as the Eagles fell to North Dakota in that year’s National Championship game.
In his senior season as captain, Gionta’s point total dipped again to 54 points, however, a roster stocked with future NHL talent produced a National Championship as Boston College defeated North Dakota, 3–2 in overtime in Albany, New York. During his senior season he led the nation in goal scoring with 33 goals, including a spectacular performance against the University of Maine, in which he scored 5 Goals on his first 5 shots.
His brother, Stephen, played for Boston College and helped distinguish the Eagles as one of the best college hockey teams in the nation; Stephen signed an amateur tryout contract with the Albany River Rats, the Devils’ farm team, in April 2006. Stephen is still playing for the Devils affiliate, now the Albany Devils.
Brian has played 310 games for New Jersey, plus 50 playoff games. He was a member of the 2002–03 Stanley Cup championship team. He played for their affiliate, the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League (AHL) during the 2004–2005 lockout. He was part of the 2006 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey team that competed in Turin, Italy.
Listed at 5’7″ Brian Gionta is the smallest player currently playing in the National Hockey League with the exception of Nathan Gerbe of the Buffalo Sabres, who is listed at 5’5″. He has enjoyed great success from the second half of the 2003–2004 season up until present day. He was one third of the Devil’s “EGG” line, playing right wing for linemates Patrik Eliáš and Scott Gomez.
Gionta was one of the Devils’ most effective offensive players, despite his small stature. Gionta is effective because he “crashes the net”. On March 28, 2006, Gionta became the first Devils player to reach 40 goals in a season since Patrik Eliáš and Alexander Mogilny each reached the mark in the 2000–01 season. On the last game of the season, he broke Pat Verbeek‘s franchise record for goals in a season, finishing with 48. He also currently holds the franchise all-time power play goal scoring record in a season with 24.
On October 27, 2007, Gionta scored the first Devils’ goal in the history of the Prudential Center in the 2nd period of a 4–1 loss to Ottawa.
On July 1, 2009, Gionta signed a 5-year contract for $25 Million with the Montreal Canadiens. This has reunited him with former Devils’ teammate Scott Gomez.
He was named the Canadiens’ captain on September 29, 2010.
Gionta is the middle child of Sam and Penny Gionta. He and his wife, Harvest, have a son, Adam and daughter Leah. He also has a brother, Stephen, who plays in the New Jersey Devils system.
- 1993–94: Rookie of the Year (Aquinas Institute)
- 1997–98: All-Rookie Team (Hockey East)
- 1997–98: Second All-Star Team (Hockey East)
- 1997–98: Rookie of the Year (Hockey East)
- 1997–98: East Second All-American Team (NCAA)
- 1998–99: First All-Star Team (Hockey East)
- 1998–99: East First All-American Team (NCAA)
- 1999: All-Star Selection, Forward, 1999 IIHF world junior hockey championships
- 1999–00: First All-Star Team (Hockey East)
- 1999–00: East First All-American Team (NCAA)
- 2000–01: First All-Star Team (Hockey East)
- 2000–01: Walter Brown Award New England’s Outstanding American-born College player. Shared with Ty Conklin (NCAA)
- 2000–01: East First All-American Team (NCAA)
- 2000–01: Player of the Year (Hockey East)
- 2002–03: Stanley Cup — New Jersey Devils (NHL)
- New Jersey Devils record for most goals in a season (48 in 2005–06)