The student section at Kelley Rink is screaming, but not for Boston College’s hockey team. In fact, the team isn’t even on the ice. It’s the second intermission, and the players are hidden away in the locker room to talk strategy for the final period. No, BC fans are roaring for their favorite little celebrity: Danny Gillis, the red-headed second grader better known simply as “Fiddle Kid.”
What began as a few minutes of fame every game from adorably fiddling along with the rest of the crowd whenever “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was played at games during the second intermission quickly transformed into something much larger. Somewhere in the middle of the season, people began to pay more attention to the little boy with the big smile as he played away on his imaginary fiddle, and Danny’s hockey experience hasn’t been the same since.
Now, he happily runs through the stands during games to take photos with his fans and has over 600 followers on a Twitter account run by his sisters, Michaela and Erin Gillis, and cousin, Liam Gillis.
But Danny’s rapid rise to stardom doesn’t come as a surprise to his family.
“He’s one of the most joyful, outgoing kids you’ve ever seen,” said his father, Michael Gillis. “His smile just makes him friends.” Perhaps, he speculated, that played a key role in Danny’s recent election to his class’ student council.
BC and its hockey team run deep in the Gillis family. Danny’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all graduated from BC 30 years apart: in 1919, 1949, and 1979, respectively. His uncle Joe, BC ’75, played hockey all four years at BC, and his father played from 1975 to 1977. His father also played varsity lacrosse during his time at BC and eventually went on to coach the team from 1990 to 1994, before it became a club sport.
“The best [hockey] player in the family, Danny Gillis, after whom our son is named, was given a hockey scholarship to BC and would have graduated with the class of 1978,” Michael said. “However, he died in a tragic car accident the first week of school during his freshman year.” Danny would have been a goalie for the team.
All three brothers grew up not only attending BC hockey and football games from a young age, Michael said, but also attending the Snooks Kelley Hockey School, after whom BC’s rink is named.
Danny’s mother, Julie, worked in BC’s development office for years and helped establish the annual “Pops on the Heights” concert, and all three of the Gillis children have been attending BC games before they could even talk.
With so much hockey running through his veins, it’s no surprise that despite his own loyal fans, Danny is still there to just watch the game. His favorite part of BC hockey games is simply getting to be a fan of the team himself.
“I get to cheer them on and see them win a lot, and since I play hockey I learn a lot of stuff from them,” he said. In addition to hockey, Danny also plays baseball and soccer.
Like a true BC fan, Danny’s admiration for head coach Jerry York is limitless. “Jerry York is the greatest coach!” he said.
Danny’s fame shows no signs of fading out anytime soon. He went to his first Beanpot tournament this year and recently starred in a video for BC that, according to his Twitter page, will debut on YouTube later this week.
“He’s having a lot of fun with it, his sisters and the family are having a lot of fun with it,” Michael said. “As long as it remains that way, I’m having fun.”
Danny himself isn’t quite sure what to make of his sudden stardom. “It’s very hard to be very famous,” he said over the phone, before a burst of giggles from his sisters in the background led to a change of heart. “I guess it’s not that hard,” he said.
Demanding celebrity status aside, Danny has already begun thinking about continuing his family’s tradition of graduating from BC.
“Going to BC is like, on my bucket list,” Danny said.
If that dream comes true, he’ll graduate as part of the class of 2028, exactly 50 years after the uncle for whom he was named would have received his own diploma.