Doug Gilmour Scored Winning Goals in Both the Memorial Cup and Stanley Cup
As a youngster playing in the Church Athletic League in Kingston in the late 1960s, Doug Gilmour believed in winning at all cost. In those days, there were no Zambonis and the losing players had to shovel the ice before the arena staff brought out water tanks to flood the ice.
“It sure made you want to win badly,” he says with a laugh over the phone from Toronto.
He credits his father Don and his older brother Dave with helping him get started in hockey. Don worked at Kingston Penitentiary but spent much of his free time coaching hockey and other sports. Dave was 13 years older and was already playing for the Ontario Hockey Association’s London Knights by the time Doug was old enough to watch games.
Gilmour played defence and only reached 5 foot 9 and 140 pounds when he finished playing minor hockey. Many said his small stature would prevent him from playing at any higher level, let alone making the NHL. Gilmour was determined to prove them wrong.
Kingston scout Gord Wood was a believer. He strongly felt that a powerful desire to succeed could overcome a player’s physical stature – and he thought Gilmour possessed that in spades. Indeed, Gilmour’s St. Louis Blues teammates would later nickname him “Killer” for his intensity.
Gilmour played briefly for the Kingston Voyageurs but asked to be released because he was getting only three minutes of ice time. He then joined the Belleville Bulls junior A squad. Wood, a scout with the Cornwall Royals of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, convinced the team to draft Gilmour in 1980 and move him from defence to forward.
“Gord gave me that chance and believed in me,” Gilmour says.
Joining Cornwall was a terrific opportunity. The Royals had captured the Memorial Cup in 1980 and were gunning for a rare repeat. The 1980-81 team was loaded with talented players who would go on to the NHL, including fellow Kingstonian Scott Arniel, Dale Hawerchuk and Marc Crawford. While Gilmour’s season was interrupted by a broken collarbone, he bounced back in time for the playoffs. He tallied 21 points in 19 playoff games.
Grinding through the competitive Quebec league playoffs was in many ways tougher than the Memorial Cup tournament itself. In the first round, Cornwall was stretched to seven games before defeating the Quebec Remparts.
The semi-final against the Sherbrooke Castors also went to seven games. At the deciding game in Cornwall, a bench-clearing brawl broke out at the end of the of second period. The Cornwall fans screamed at the referee for what they believed were unfair calls.
“During the intermission, many irate fans went outside and made snowballs,” Gilmour recalls. “When the referee came back on the ice for the third period they pelted him. There was so much snow on the ice that they had to bring the Zamboni out and resurface it again.”
When order was finally restored, Cornwall eked out a victory. The Royals then cruised past the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs 4-1 to win the league championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament.
At the tournament in Windsor, Cornwall lost only one game. In the final the Royals pounded the Kitchener Rangers 8-2. Gilmour scored the winning goal and Arniel bagged a hat trick.
Despite the Memorial Cup championship and his own strong season, Gilmour was still dismissed for his size. He added a couple of inches in Cornwall but virtually no extra heft.
“During the weigh-ins, I would wear my long underwear and stuff heavy coins into my jock,” he recalls. “And I drank three gallons of water beforehand – but it didn’t seem to make much difference.”
He went unselected in the draft in 1981. “It was disappointing but on the other hand it made me work harder. I had a chip on my shoulder but I felt that I could play in the NHL.”
In the following year’s draft, St. Louis took a gamble and chose Gilmour 134th overall. He attended training camp but was sent back to Cornwall, now part of the Ontario league. Then his scoring prowess really began to show - during the 1982-83 season, he led the league in scoring with 177 points.
Despite the stellar final year in Cornwall, the Blues showed little interest in signing Gilmour. He headed to Germany in the summer of 1983, with plans to play in the pro league there. However, before he could put his stick on the ice, St. Louis finally agreed to terms and he played his first NHL game on Oct. 4.
Within a couple of years, Gilmour had proved the doubters wrong. He spent five years with the Blues, peaking in the 1986-87 season with 105 points. In 1988, he was sent to Calgary as part of a multi-player trade. While at the time Gilmour expressed disappointment with being shipped to Calgary, it would turn out to be a fortuitous move.
In the 1989 playoffs, the Calgary Flames reached the finals against the Montreal Canadiens, the last time that the Stanley Cup has been played entirely on Canadian soil. Calgary captured the Cup in six games and with a 4-2 victory at the Montreal Forum. Gilmour scored twice in that game – including the Cup-winning goal.
While records aren’t kept on this, Gilmour may be the only player ever to score a winning goal in both the Memorial Cup and the Stanley Cup. He is one of six players from Kingston to score a Stanley Cup-winning goal.
However, for Gilmour the best seasons were yet to come. In 1992, he was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a blockbuster 10-player trade, the largest in league history. That year he went on to notch 127 points, his career best.
Playing in Toronto also had personal benefits. “By that time, my Dad had retired and was able to travel to Toronto to see many of my games,” he recalls. “It was great that he was able to share in my success.”
Toronto have been perennial Stanley Cup hopefuls since their last win in 1967. Gilmour helped bring the team to the verge of the finals in 1992-93. The Leafs were leading the semi-final series against Los Angeles 3-2.
The sixth game went into overtime and Wayne Gretzky hit Gilmour with a high stick, sending him to the dressing room for stitches. While it should have been a five-minute penalty, none was called. Minutes later Gretzky scored and LA took the seventh game.
Gilmour went on to play with New Jersey, Chicago, Buffalo and Montreal. He was traded back to the Leafs in 2003 but played only a single game – a collision during the match resulted in a leg injury and the end of his 20-year career.
The stats speak for themselves. He totalled 1,414 points in 1,474 games – pretty amazing for a player who was supposed to a defensive forward. He played on the 1987 Canada Cup Championship team, a career highlight for him. Gilmour served as captain of the Leafs and his number 93 has been retired. He is 19th on the overall NHL scoring list and has been inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After retiring, Gilmour returned to Kingston to coach the Frontenacs in 2008. He became general manager in 2011 and later President of Hockey Operations. He stepped down in 2019.
It all adds up to a pretty amazing hockey career. “It was a fun ride,” he says of his NHL playing days. “I just wish that everyone gets a chance to spend 20 years doing what they love.”