Doug Gilmour last came to Vancouver years ago, but he returns to the Lower Mainland this week with both fond memories and some he would rather forget.
Gilmour is one of the five guests slated to attend the 2019 Western Canada Collectibles Experience Nov. 22 to 24 at Langley Events Centre.
Joining Gilmour will be Ray Bourque, Grant Fuhr, Rogie Vachon and Jack Sikma and while the first four are all members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Sikma was inducted earlier this year to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Vancouver Giants will also be on hand signing autographs for fans on Friday night (tonight) and anyone with tickets to the team’s Nov. 23 game gets free admission to the WCCE show on both the Friday and Saturday. Otherwise, tickets to attend are $5.
Ahead of his visit, Gilmour took some time to chat about both his lengthy NHL career and life post-hockey (or at least post-NHL).
After retiring from the NHL in 2003, Gilmour has spent the past 11 years with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs, serving in a variety of roles such as head coach, general manager and most recently, president of hockey operations. But he recently stepped away from the organization and joined the Toronto Maple Leafs as a community representative.
While it has been years since Gilmour was in Vancouver he returns with both fond and not-so fond memories.
The good memories stem from the 1989 Stanley Cup Playoffs as Gilmour’s Calgary Flames faced the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round.
Calgary was fresh off capturing the President’s Trophy with 117 points, well ahead of the Canucks’ paltry 74 points. Despite the point discrepancy, Vancouver pushed the Flames to overtime of game seven.
“What a series that was. It was a nail-biter, but we found a way to win,” Gilmour recalled. “You think about how things could have been different and we had not won the Cup.”
For Canuck fans, the enduring image of that series was Joel Otto’s overtime winner, which may or not have been kicked in (Calgary fans are surely to say it was a good goal while Vancouver fans would beg to differ). But after Vancouver took the Flames down to the wire, Calgary responded by defeating Los Angeles in four games, getting past the Chicago Blackhawks in five games in the Conference Final and then winning in six games over Montreal in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final.
Gilmour admits he did not play his best in the opening round but recovered to finish with 11 goals and 22 points in 22 playoff games. That came on the heels of a 26-goal, 85-point (in 72 games) regular season.
His other Vancouver memory would not be so fond as Gilmour (now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs) saw his team go down in the 1994 Western Conference Finals against the Canucks.
Another Vancouver connection for Gilmour was the fact his brother-in-law Neil Belland played for the Canucks in the first half of the 1980s, including on the 1982 team which advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
And Gilmour was apparently close to becoming a Canuck as he knew the Leafs were shopping him with Vancouver General Manager Pat Quinn in pursuit. But instead, Toronto sent him to New Jersey, the third of seven teams Gilmour would play for over his 20-year, 1,474-game career.
Meeting fans at these various shows, there is bound to be one question he gets most frequently.
“Probably the biggest question is Kerry Fraser and the missed call, that is one of the biggest ones I get,” Gilmour said.
The play occurred during game six of the Western Conference Finals with Gilmour’s Leafs up 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings. With the Kings on a power play in overtime, Wayne Gretzky’s stick clearly caught Gilmour on the chin, drawing blood.
The rule in those days was any high stick infraction which resulted in blood was an automatic five-minute major and game misconduct. Of course, this was before the two-referee system and after conferring with his linesmen about what they saw, no one was able to confirm what those watching on TV were able to see: a clear high sticking penalty.
On the very next shift, Gretzky tied the game sending the series back to Toronto where the Great One scored a hat trick as the Kings eliminated Toronto.
On his career
Despite finishing sixth in Ontario Hockey League scoring following 46 goals and 119 points with the Cornwall Royals, Gilmour was not selected until the seventh round of the NHL Entry Draft.
Gilmour admitted his draft position had bruised his ego and he returned to Cornwall angry. After a slow start to the season, Gilmour’s frustration boiled over and he picked a fight with Mike Eagles of the Kitchener Rangers, resulting in a broken nose and cracked orbital bone. Following surgery to repair the damage, Gilmour returned to the team wearing a full-face shield.
It also taught him a lesson.
“Forget that, forget playing with a chip on your shoulder and just go play. It worked out well and I had a great year and some great line-mates,” he said.
Gilmour delivered a 70-goal, 177-point season to win the OHL scoring race — both numbers are still all-time records in the league – and set a league record with a 57-game point streak.
The next season, Gilmour would make the jump to the NHL, beginning as a defensive forward with the St. Louis Blues before becoming a dynamic offensive two-way forward.
For his career, Gilmour played 1,474 games, capturing the Stanley Cup in 1989 and the Selke Trophy in 1993 as the league’s top defensive forward. He finished his 20-year career with 450 goals and 1,414 points for St. Louis, Calgary, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago, Buffalo and Montreal. His final stop was Toronto after the Leafs acquired him at the 2003 trade deadline from Montreal.
In 2009, the Leafs retired his #93 jersey and two years later, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.