After playing minor hockey in his hometown of Kingston, Gilmour’s junior hockey career began in the 1981-82 season with the Cornwall Royals of the OHL. He compiled an astounding 119 points which led the Royals in scoring and lead them to a Memorial Cup Championship. Despite sporting an impressive junior resume, he was passed over during his first year of eligibility in the NHL draft. Scouts were weary on picking him because they felt his smaller size would not hold up in the more physical and demanding style of play in the National Hockey League. The following year he was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 7th round, 134th overall at the 1982 NHL entry draft. Nobody knew where his career would end up but it is safe to argue that this could be one of the biggest steals in NHL draft history. Gilmour did not make the team that season and was sent back to the OHL where he led the league in scoring with 177 points while also winning the MVP award. There was nothing left to prove; it was time to make the jump to the NHL.
Initially Gilmour was given a role as the Blues fourth line center in the 1983-84 season taking on the job of a defensive specialist. It was here where he developed his unparalleled two way game, excellent defensive coverage, physical toughness, fearless attitude, and the hustle, determination and grit that would follow him throughout his career. His tenacious style earned him the nickname “Killer” from teammate Brian Sutter. Gilmour played a solid game but in relative obscurity for five seasons for the Blues. He averaged 50 points during his first three seasons but his offensive game erupted during the 1985-86 playoffs where he posted 21 points in 19 games while leading the Blues to the conference finals. Although the Blues lost that round; Gilmour still managed to lead the league in playoff scoring and became one of two players in NHL history to lead playoff scoring without making it to the Stanley Cup finals. It was the beginning of a legendary career, his defensive game was complete and his offensive skills were starting to marvel the league. He proved it was no fluke as he amassed 105 points the following season including a career high 42 goals. Surprisingly to some Gilmour was named to a star studded Team Canada roster in the 1987 Canada Cup. His feisty play provided excellent balance and played a pivotal role in guiding Canada to victory.
Gilmour was traded to the Calgary Flames just prior to the 1988-89 season and it paid dividends immediately as he posted 85 points during the season followed by another clutch playoff performance with 22 points in 22 games (He also set the NHL record for the two fastest short handed goals which clocked in at an astonishing four seconds apart). He helped guide a dangerous Calgary team to its first (and his first) ever Stanley Cup Championship. Before the final game Gilmour shared his infamous “kiss” with Don Cherry who forever referred to him as “Dougie”. Perhaps it inspired him as he scored two goals in the decisive game including the game winner. He continued to have a successful career with the Flames for several more seasons and always posted more than a point per game during his tenure there.
On January 2, 1992 Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher pulled off a blockbuster trade that brought Dougie over to the Leafs. Fletcher served as the Flames GM during the late 80’s while Gilmour was a staple for that franchise, and he knew the type of player he was bringing over. He finished strong for the Leafs that season but the following 1992-93 season is where Gilmour reached superstar status. That year saw Gilmour set franchise records with 127 points during the season including 95 assists and six assists in one game. He was chosen to play in his first all-star game, was a runner up for the Hart Trophy (MVP) and won the Selke Trophy which awarded the league’s best defensive forward. The Leafs would reach the conference finals that year in the playoffs losing to the Los Angeles Kings. Gilmour went head to head against Wayne Gretzky and battled hard. An infamous non-call on a high stick to Gilmour would lead to the Leafs elimination but he finished the post season with 35 points which put him in second behind Gretzky. The hockey crazed market of Toronto fell in love with Gilmour due to his in-your-face, never say die attitude accompanied by his unreal successes statistically also. Inevitably came the endorsements and commercials that continued to mold Dougie into a Leaf legend. The following year was no different for Gilmour; he finished fourth in scoring with 111 points, made a consecutive trip to the all star game and was a runner up for the Selke trophy. He once again guided the Leafs deep into the playoffs until they lost in the conference finals to the Vancouver Canucks. Doug Gilmour was a leader and lead his teams’ by his on ice actions and dedication to being a winner. At this point in his career he had done it all and after fan favourite Wendel Clark was traded to Quebec the final piece to his already astounding career was set. Gilmour was named team captain of the historic Toronto Maple Leafs. His personal success continued and he captained the Leafs until the 1997 season where he was traded to the New Jersey Devils due to a lack of success for the franchise and a need to rebuild. Doug Gilmour was, and has remained one of the most popular players in the modern era of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise.
Gilmour played one more season in New Jersey until the 1998 offseason where he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks. Ironically Gilmour, as a Blackhawk, played against Toronto in the final game at Maple Leaf Gardens where he scored a goal and was given a standing ovation by the crowd. He would go on to play for the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens from 1999 to 2003. At the trade deadline in 2003 “Killer” was traded back to Toronto but sadly his second tenure with the Leafs lasted one game as an accidental collision tore his ACL and caused him to miss the rest of the season. Doug Gilmour officially retired on September 8th, 2003. He finished his career scoring 450 goals and 964 assists for a total of 1414 points placing him 17th in NHL all time scoring. On January 31, 2009 he accomplished another feat as his number 93 was honoured by the Leafs being raised to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre. Finally in 2011 his career came full circle as the kid who was deemed too small to play professional hockey reached legendary status by being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is the only player from his draft year to be inducted and it is a crazy thought knowing he was picked 134th overall. Doug Gilmour embodied skill, grit, awareness, passion, toughness, success, dedication, leadership and desire like no other and he accomplished more than any scout would have ever imagined. He was a fan favourite wherever he played and will go down as one of the greatest all around players in NHL history.
Since retirement Gilmour has served as a player development advisor for the Leafs and was an assistant coach for their AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies. He left the Leafs organization to become head coach of his hometown Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. He has since left that position to become general manager. One way or the other his passion and love for the game will have him involved for years to come.
Perhaps it’s destiny for those fortunate enough or the utmost drive and desire to overcome the odds for others. For Doug Gilmour, becoming a professional hockey player involved a healthy mix of both. He embodied skill, grit, passion, dedication, leadership and desire like no other and he accomplished more than any scout would have ever imagined. Dougie was a fan favourite wherever he played and will go down as one of the greatest all around players in NHL history.
Gilmour led his teammates with his actions on the ice. Off the ice, he has always given back to the fans with his support of many charities or as simple a stopping to sign an autograph with whomever he speaks with.