On March 12, 1977, Jeff McDill made his NHL debut with the Chicago Black Hawks in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. That night he achieved the dream of every kid who has ever played hockey. It was the only NHL game that McDill would ever appear in.
McDill grew up in Dauphin, Manitoba and started his junior career with the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) in 1972/73. The next season he impressed coach Pat Ginnell in training camp and earned a spot on the Flin Flon Bombers of the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL). He played two years with the Bombers scoring 104 points over 112 games. On September 6, 1975, he was traded from Flin Flon to Victoria and reunited with Ginnell, who was now the coach/GM of the Cougars. When announcing the trade, Ginnell expressed high expectations for McDill:
“I’m counting on Jeff for 50 goals this season.”
In his first game with the Cougars, McDill got into a fight four seconds into the first period. He concluded his season debut with a Gordie Howe hat trick - a fight, a goal and an assist. That season, McDill responded to Ginnell’s challenge with a team-leading 55 goals. Overall, he was second in scoring with 121 points and third in penalty minutes with 197. As a result of his career year, the Hockey News NHL draft preview issue had McDill rated as the WCHL's No. 5 prospect.
At the 1976 draft, McDill was selected in the second round by the Chicago Black Hawks and by the Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association in the third round. He signed with the Black Hawks and played most of 1976/77 with the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League scoring 70 points.
Near the end of the first season with Flint, McGill was called up to join the Chicago Black Hawks. On Saturday, March 12, 1977, he dressed for his first NHL game for the Black Hawks in Montreal against the Canadiens. McGill never registered a point in his debut as the high-powered Canadiens (they only lost eight games that year) defeated the Black Hawks 5-1. That would be McDill’s only career NHL game.
The next season, he split the year between Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Maine scoring 51 points. In 1978, McDill was released by the Black Hawks and signed with the New York Rangers. After two years with the Rangers minor league affiliate in New Haven, McDill retired and moved back to Dauphin, Manitoba.
In 1981, he was named head coach of the Dauphin Kings and led them to provincial championships in 1982 and 1983. After four years as head coach, McDill stepped down in 1985 to concentrate on other business interests.
Hockey has always been a part of McDill’s family as his brother Rob McDill, skated with the Dauphin Kings in 1979. His nephew, Brad Church, played junior hockey with the Prince Albert Raiders and was a second-round pick of the Washington Capitals in 1995. Church played eleven years of pro hockey and appeared in two NHL games.
On November 3, 2012, Jeff McDill passed away at the age of 56. He leaves a legacy of a memorable playing career as a tough playmaking right-winger, developing youth as a coach in Dauphin, Manitoba and one of 395 players to appear in exactly one National Hockey League game.