Doug Gilmour made his way into the GM Centre in Oshawa, Ontario on Sunday, January 4th, with one goal in mind—to win.
Sure, it may be the same goal he’s had in mind over his 20 seasons in the NHL, but now it’s looking through a different point of view, through the eyes of a head coach.
Gilmour accomplished a lot during his stints with the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, and Montreal Canadiens. In Calgary, he captured hockey’s ultimate trophy, the Stanley Cup. In Toronto is where he truly found his home.
He became a player of heroic status like few others before him, and was nominated for the NHL’s Hart Trophy as the league's MVP.
But now, because of his passion to remain in the game, Gilmour has found a new niche. While he started the year as an assistant coach for the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, he soon found himself a more appealing job offer. He was named the head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs on Nov. 17, 2008.
His new passion isn’t just a hobby; it’s his new legacy.
This wasn’t just a quick decision either; he has wanted to be behind the bench for a while now.
“For two years I was doing management scouting with the Leafs,” said Gilmour. “The past year I went over to the Spengler Cup. That gave me a taste of the coaching side of it.”
“I just felt that I had a lot more passion for that side, than just watching and evaluating players.”
While it’s great that Dougie still has a passion for the game, it will be a difficult transition, and one that will force out a different side of him.
“I don’t like my side where I got to yell and scream,” said Gilmour. “Sometimes you have to be the bad guy, and that’s hard for me to do.”
When Gilmour was hired as part of the Toronto Maple Leafs scouting program, many people in Toronto felt he would be the next Toronto coach, following the firing of Paul Maurice. The cards didn’t quite play out that way, and Ron Wilson soon got the job.
When asked if he was interviewed for the position, he admitted he wasn’t and said he needed more time to get accustomed to the new role.
“I need experience. If I’m going to move up the rankings, I’m going to need that.”
Gilmour undoubtedly will get his share of experience coaching the Kingston Fronenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, and while he has no time line set, he believes it’s not far fetched to see him behind an NHL bench in three years.
He has learned from the best, including Jacques Demers, Jacques Lemaire, Jacques Martin, Pat Burns, and Terry Crisp—so one can only imagine with the teachers he’s had and the respect he will receive, just how hot a commodity he will become.
“You take a piece from every one of those guys. But you don’t pat yourself after certain guys, because everybody should have their own character.”
While he has his hands full at the moment with Kingston, he’s going to have to take a night off from the job and visit the ACC on Jan. 31. Prior to a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, Doug Gilmour’s number 93 will be honoured and raised to the rafters.
He will join the likes of 14 other legends that have dawned the blue and white, including Johnny Bower, Tim Horton, Borje Salming, and Darryl Sittler.
While Gilmour doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to say yet, he knows how special of a night it will be.
“It will be a special moment. It’s more about thank you than it is anything else. “I’ll obviously cherish being in that position.”
Being honoured will bring back some of his most memorable moments at the ACC as well as the legendary Maple Leaf Gardens. One that many fans will never forget—nor will he, is the 1993 playoff series against Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.
In Game 6 of the Western Conference final, Wayne Gretzky’s stick came up and hit Gilmour in the face. Kerry Fraser was the official, and as many Leaf fans would say, his grudge against the blue and white may have been the reason behind the non-call.
The Kings went on to win Game Seven, and Gilmour admitted that Gretzky had one of his best games ever.
“All Kerry Fraser had to do was speak to the linesman and say, you saw it?”
“They (the linesman) saw it.”
“If you give me the seventh game at home, semi finals, to go to the Stanley Cup finals, I’ll take it every time,” said Gilmour. “He probably had one of his best games I’ve ever seen him play.”
Going back to last year when all the controversy was surrounding Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour was in the midst of it all.
“I was in the meeting. For management side it was a little disappointing. It’s mixed emotions, “ he said. “He stood his ground and that’s the power he has.”
“I can’t say for him, but for management side, yeah we would have like to get something for him.
Doug Gilmour has been a busy man as of late. It will be an honour to see his No. 93 honoured and raised to the rafters on Jan. 31—a tribute to the hard work and first class person he is.
It wouldn’t be a big surprise if he adds a Memorial Cup championship to his resume before taking an NHL job as a bench boss.
Check out the audio interview between Doug Gilmour and myself.