TORONTO (CP) Sept. 08, 2003 -- His mind made up by a wonky knee and disinterested general manager, 40-year-old Doug Gilmour bid goodbye to an NHL career Monday that spanned 20 seasons and gave him a Stanley Cup ring.
Gilmour's dream finale with Toronto turned into a nightmare when he suffered a season-ending knee injury just a few shifts into his first game back as a Maple Leaf.
His contribution lasted just four minutes 51 seconds before he crawled off the ice in Calgary after colliding with Dave Lowry of the Flames.
The five-foot-eleven, 177-pound veteran forward has spent the last few months rehabilitating the knee after major reconstructive surgery.
"The progress has been slower than I'd like. . . my body is telling me the time has come,'' Gilmour told a news conference.
|Doug Gilmour played for seven different NHL teams over his career.|
Graig Abel Photography
"(The knee injury) simplifies everything for me, it just makes it a lot easier to move on with the rest of my life,'' he added.
The unrestricted free agent had hoped the Leafs would give him another shot, but new GM John Ferguson Jr. said last week that Gilmour wasn't in the team's plans.
When asked about the comment, Gilmour replied, "I can honestly say I wasn't too happy with it, I was just disappointed, but it's part of the game.''
While the Leafs front office brass were noticeably absent from the news conference, the team did issue a release praising Gilmour for his contributions.
"The game itself will miss his intensity, passion and his desire to compete each time he stepped on the ice,'' said the release.
Gilmour, who won the Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989, combined a sniper's smarts with a feisty enthusiasm that endeared himself to fans.
He had a deft offensive touch, but also a nasty streak.
It was that combination that won over Leaf fans when Gilmour was given the unenviable task of following Wendel Clark as captain.
"This has been such a great ride,'' Gilmour said.
"I have had so many great experiences, winning a Stanley Cup, playing at home (in Toronto) . . . and playing with some great players and great teams.''
Gilmour averaged nearly a point a game over his NHL career. He leaves with 450 goals, 964 assists and 1,414 points in 1,474 regular season games.
Gilmour won the Frank J. Selke Award as the league's top defensive forward in 1993 and played in the NHL all-star game in 1993 and 1994.
The native of Kingston, Ont., was selected in the seventh round, 134th overall, by St. Louis in the 1982 entry draft.
He spent five years with the Blues before being dealt to Calgary, where he won a Cup in 1989 and recorded three 80-plus point seasons.
On Jan. 2, 1992, Gilmour, along with Toronto's Gary Leeman, were the key cogs in a massive 10-player trade with Calgary.
Gilmour recorded a personal best 127 points during Toronto's 1992-93 campaign, a season he focused on when reminiscing about his career at Monday's news conference.
A game-seven loss to Los Angeles in the conference final that year clearly still weighs on his mind.
"Give me Game 7, at home. . . we should have won that game, but he (Wayne Gretzky) proved what type of player he was, he beat us,'' Gilmour said.
Toronto dealt Gilmour to New Jersey in 1997. He also played for Chicago, Buffalo and Montreal before returning to the Leafs at last season's trade deadline.
His retirement comes about a week after Kirk Muller, another Kingston native and a close friend, announced his retirement.
Gilmour's wife Amy was teary-eyed as she sat beside her husband in front of a few dozen reporters for the announcement.
Gilmour's good friend, Toronto enforcer Tie Domi, was on hand to read a speech and introduce his teammate.
Gilmour did leave the door to a possible return open - but just a crack.
Asked about lacing them up again, Gilmour said, "I can't tell you how I'm going to feel in three or four months, but I don't think it's going to happen.''