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Honouring Doug Gilmour

January 31st, 2009

It’s hard to remember the Maple Leafs of the early 90’s now. Harold Ballard was gone and the Maple Leafs wound up in the hands of Steve Stavro, owner of Knob Hill Farms grocery chain. The transfer of power was not without it’s drama and the first hiring of the new regime, GM Cliff Fletcher, was at one time in doubt. He was hired by Donald Crump, and Stavro originally wanted Fletcher out. Finally allowed to get on with the job, Fletcher wanted to build a team that was “strong up the middle.”

That summer he pulled a coup when he hired coach Pat Burns mere days after Burns parted ways with Montreal. Goalie Grant Fuhr was procured from Edmonton. Then came the deal. One of the most lopsided deals in NHL history, as Fletcher picked the pocket of his replacement in Calgary. It was a ten player deal but make no mistake, there was one important element in the deal: Doug Gilmour was coming to Toronto.

I am 45 years old and have lived in the Toronto area since I was three in 1966 – we arrived the summer before the Leafs last Stanley Cup season. I was a Leafs fan starting in 1969 or 1970, up until a few seasons ago. Nobody in that time who wore the Maple Leaf was a better player than Doug Gilmour after coming to Toronto. Steve Simmons had a piece on Thursday which covered it well: Time of his Life.

For two years, for the first and only time in my lifetime, the Leafs had a player who was among the very best in the NHL. It’s amazing that both Gilmour and Burns have won Stanley Cups with other teams, but cite those two years as favourites. Especially the 1993 playoffs: this town was alive like I have never seen, this team a real contender for the Stanley Cup and virtually all the credit goes to Doug Gilmour.

As this is posted the Leafs will be feting Gilmour and for the first time in five years, I will take my throwback Leaf jersey out from it’s dark, lonely vigil in the back of my closet. I will turn on the TV and I will watch the Toronto Maple Leafs. I will no doubt struggle to explain this to the kids, how good he was, how great it was to be along for the ride.

Then they will drop the puck and I’ll turn off the TV for God only knows how long, until they honour who? What player since would come close to what Doug Gilmour did in those two season? No, me and the Leafs are done with. But that 1993 playoff run, that is something I’ll never forget. That kind of magic is reason enough to be a sports fan and tonight at least, I’ll play the fan and remember a great spring.

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  1. Ron
    January 31st, 2009 at 22:51 | #1

    Oh, I think the kids will understand.
    I seem to remember that one of The Daughter’s earliest words was “Dougie!”

  2. Stevie J
    February 1st, 2009 at 00:57 | #2

    I am only a couple of years younger than you, but I was at the game tonite with my 11 year old son. It was great to explain to him how much excitement there was watching the Leafs in that era. David is well aware of our use of the term “Dougie” too, with the proper emphasis on his name. He is also aware of my disgust with Kerrie Fraser with the non-call for the high stick by Gretzky. While I did not buy the $215 Gilmour jersey tonight, I did get the commemorative Gilmour hockey puck. Great memories and dreams that I will see Lord Stanley in Toronto in my lifetime. Great radio coverage of the Gilmour era driving to and from the game from our home in KW.

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