MONTREAL -- The Canadiens have left an indelible mark on Doug Gilmour, even after just 150 games with the club.
Free time has been at a premium for Gilmour ever since getting involved with the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs full-time -- first as head coach, then as general manager -- explaining why he hasn't been back in La Belle Province much over the years.
Until recently, that is.
Earlier this month, Gilmour was in town for the Canadiens annual Fantasy Camp, and got a quick refresher course on what makes Montreal so special.
"[Rejean Houle] actually invited me a couple of times over the years, but the timing was always tough with my obligations in Kingston," explained the former Hab, who racked up 21 goals and 49 assists with the Canadiens between 2001 and 2003. "This year, when I got the email, I looked at my schedule and saw that I could make it work. Being at the Bell Centre brought back so many memories, and I have nothing but good things to say about this organization."
"I was an older player when I first got here, I was 38. I wish I was younger when I played here, but it was a great experience," continued Gilmour. "My first year here was the year that Saku [Koivu] came back from cancer. He came back just before the playoffs, and guided us through a great run. It was a fun playoff run, and the Bell Centre was electric."
Over the course of his stay in Quebec, the now 53-year-old made a number of bonds which endure today -- among them, current Habs associate coach Kirk Muller.
"It was fun to catch up with Kirk -- it's always nice to see him," shared the Ontario native, who also spent two seasons with Muller in Toronto during the mid-90s. "We're both from Kingston, and we live on the same lake during the offseason. Usually, his vacation time is a little different than mine, but we do catch up when we have the chance."
During his most recent visit this month, as part of a friendly game organized at Fantasy Camp, Gilmour pulled on a Habs sweater for the first time since March 10, 2003 -- days before a trade sent him to the Maple Leafs, over a decade ago.
While seeing one of the most popular players in Leafs history sporting the CH on his chest may have been odd for some -- the Hall of Fame forward has always had a different take.
"I was a free agent, and I decided to sign in Montreal. There were a lot of people in Toronto who didn't understand the decision, but it was mine to make. My hometown is actually right in the middle of both cities," concluded Gilmour. "I remember, one of the earliest pictures of me in hockey gear, from when I was two years-old, was with a Montreal jersey on."
These days, with his hands still full in Kingston, Gilmour isn't yet sure if he'd like to one day move on to pro hockey.
But if he does, who knows, maybe he'll be visiting the Bell Centre more often with another club in the future...