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Doug Gilmour epitomized the term difference-maker

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

They are the best of the best in Calgary Flames history.

Over 24 days we will profile our All-Time All-Stars (listed alphabetically at each position). Make sure to check back daily to see who's getting the nod.

May 8 - Theoren Fleury (RW)

May 9 - Jarome Iginla (RW)

May 10 - Hakan Loob (RW)

May 11 - Lanny McDonald (RW)

May 12 - Joey Mullen (RW)

May 13-17 - Centres

May 18-22 - Left-wingers

May 23-28 - Defencemen

May 29-31 - Goaltenders

Today, we highlight the man nicknamed Killer - Doug Gilmour:

He had that look of a wily street urchin, jaunty and cunning and larcenous.

"With Killer,'' once explained goaltender Rick Wamsley, a longtime teammate, "it was kind of like the 'my dad's tougher 'n your dad' skinny-little-kid-in-the-playground thing.

"You hit him once, he had to hit you twice. You hit him 10 times, he had to hit you 11.

"You could knock him down and blacken his eye, but he wouldn't let it die until he'd hit you that one extra shot; until he'd won."

On the Flames' Stanley Cup collection of 1989, a group teeming with good-to-great individuals of differing talents, Doug Gilmour was indisputably the table-tipper, the difference-maker.

The competitive conscience.

"He didn't blow smoke,'' praised left-winger Colin Patterson. "He weighed what, 165-170 pounds? But he'd go into the corner against a guy 220 and come out with the puck.

"It's hard not to follow a lead like that."

The year after Gilmour's arrival, the Flames claimed their first President's Trophy as the NHL's leading points team through the regular campaign. The second, they were champions.

Coincidence? Yeah. Right. As if.

The man who brokered the deal that brought Gilmour here via the St. Louis pipeline, a seven-player extravaganza days before the opening of training camp 1988, summed it up best.

"Obviously,'' Cliff Fletcher has said, often, "the trade that pulled everything together was getting Doug Gilmour."

Flames partisans of a certain vintage still wax nostalgic about Lanny McDonald's "game-winning" goal that touchstone night of May 25, 1989 at the Montreal Forum.


The GWG was, in fact, scored by none other than Gilmour, chipping a flying puck out of the air and past goaltender Patrick Roy at 11:02 of the third period.

"A powerplay," he recalled. "I took a backhand, knocked it out of the air and it went five-hole on Patrick. Obviously stuff like that's not planned. I don't know … it just went in, my hands were up, we had the lead."

For an encore, he then proceeded to plop the puck into a vacated Habs' net with 1:03 remaining to ice the deal.

He could play in any situation and was a superb defensive player to go along with the offensive frills (295 points in 261 games as a Flame).

Three-and-a-half seasons spent at the Saddledome isn't enough to put him near the top of Flames' career stats in any single category - Gilmour's tenure in media-mad Toronto would transform him into a league-wide superstar - but such was his influence, his example, his non-negotiable refusal to compromise and ability to seize the spotlight on the biggest stage imaginable that make him a franchise all-timer.

"Killer,'' reasoned Wamsley, part of the infamous deal that would ship Gilmour east early in 1991, "made us a good enough team to win.

"Look, we don't win if we don't have Nieuwy. We don't win if we don't have Hakan Loob. We don't win if we don't have the defence we had. And we don't win if we don't have Vernie.

"But Gilmour was such a great GAME player. A big-moment guy. I don't care who you are, what your lineup looks like, you need that guy.

"He was the final ingredient of, I dunno, a pretty good pot of stew. You sprinkle him in there and he just made it a great pot of stew."

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