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Killer book: Gilmour honors parents by opening up about career on and off the ice in new memoir

It took nearly 15 years, but Doug Gilmour has finally penned a biography and pulled back the curtain on his Hall of Fame career.

Fourteen years have passed since Doug Gilmour skated his final NHL game and, by his count, he’s been asked to write a biography in nearly every one of those. However, be it due to timing or a lack of interest, Gilmour had never gone forward with the idea. 

Until now, that is.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Gilmour has been hard at work with Sportsnet senior writer Dan Robson on a new memoir, Killer: My Life In Hockey, which hit shelves on Tuesday. The 313-page biography leaves few stones unturned from Gilmour’s nearly 1,500-game career, detailing everything from Gilmour’s earliest playing days — back when ‘Little Gilly’ took the ice, not the now legendary ‘Killer’ — to his life now as president of hockey operations of his hometown Kingston Frontenacs. And, Gilmour said, the decision to finally put his story down on paper after all these years wasn’t about reliving past glories or finally giving into the requests. Rather, it was about family. More specifically, his mother and father, Dolly and Don.

“When my dad passed on, and then a couple years back my mom was diagnosed with dementia, I just felt somewhere in the back of my head that I should tell a bit of a story about how they helped me out and where they got me,” Gilmour said.

Gilmour most certainly nails that aspect of his story, too, making it abundantly clear where he got the on-ice intelligence and fire that drove him through his career as a relatively undersized center at a time when size ruled the roost. From post-game conversations with his father, talks that would persist even into Gilmour’s days as coach of the Frontenacs, to tales of his mother’s at-times fiery temper, like the time she hooked a referee from the stands during one of his brother’s games, Gilmour dives into what made him uniquely him.

Gilmour doesn’t solely focus on the on-ice aspects of his career throughout the biography, however. Throughout, he opens up about the off-ice talk or behind-the-scenes situations that ultimately led to his departure first from the St. Louis Blues and the Calgary Flames, where Gilmour won his lone Stanley Cup. Intensely prideful, Gilmour sheds light on how overhearing discussion about trading him from then-Flames GM Doug Reisbrough nearly led to him bolting from the team.

“You want to be respected,” Gilmour said. “You’re trying to work each and every day, you want to be a good teammate. And then behind closed doors you find out they’re not impressed with your game or they don’t like you, whatever it might be, and I’m not going to let my team down during a game. So, my biggest thing was if they don’t like me, move me.”

And, when the Flames eventually did, Gilmour wound up a Toronto Maple Leaf, where he would go on to become captain and one of the most beloved players in the history of the franchise. Gilmour was reunited with Cliff Fletcher, whom he knew from his days in Calgary, and he describes the almost instant positive feelings he had about the organization. He believed in what Toronto was doing then, what the Leafs were building, and could feel the electricity in the city. It’s a feeling, he said, that wasn’t too unlike what Toronto is going through now with the new generation.

“There’s a lot of buzz around here with these young guys,” Gilmour said. “They’re adding pieces to make it that much better. I love what they’re doing, it’s exciting to watch. They’re generating a lot of happy people around here right now.”

One thing that certainly sets this generation apart from Gilmour’s, though, is that it won’t be taking near as long for the game’s top young stars to be earning big bucks. Gilmour, meanwhile, recalls tough contract negotiations with the Blues, arbitration with the Flames and New Jersey Devils and the pressure that comes along with being a free agent for the first time. At the time, Gilmour had an offer to stay with the Devils, where he would earn slightly less than Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens, but instead chose to hit the open market and join the Chicago Blackhawks.

“You have to understand the side of a player with the NHL Players’ Association,” Gilmour said. “You’re there to get as much money as you can, not just for you, but for the next guy. I was kind of lied to, as well, with Chicago. I thought Brett Hull was going there. He was going to be my linemate. And then a couple days later he was in Dallas. Do I have regrets after it? I got moved when Mike Smith came in, so it wasn’t the best of times, but…those are the decisions you have to make. Sometimes it’s not going to be the right decision, but I’m not going to sit here and say I should have stayed in New Jersey. I had to do what was right for myself and my fellow players.”

Landing in Chicago would signal the beginning of the end for Gilmour, who would play five more seasons before hanging up his skates. He’s frank and honest about some clashes in Buffalo, the enjoyment of playing in Montreal under an owner, George Gillet, whom he adored, and how difficult it was to suffer an injury in his first game back, and ultimately the final game of his career, as a Maple Leaf. And for all the 1,414 points he scored, the countless pranks he pulled — and, boy, were there a lot of them — and the people he met along the way, Gilmour is grateful for the career his parents made possible for him and that he was able to call it quits when he knew it was time.

“I was blessed to play 20 years,” Gilmour said. “Nobody expected me to play that, for sure, and I did it on my own terms.”

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