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Hall of Fame

Doug Gilmour right at home in Toronto

Hockey Hall of Fame member, former Maple Leafs star enjoys playing in Legends Classic at Air Canada Centre

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

TORONTO -- It was 15 minutes before warm-up for the Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic at Air Canada Centre on Sunday and Doug Gilmour was dressed, ready to go, wearing his game face.

That is, provided the game face worn by the man known as 'Killer' during 1,474 NHL games was a broad, boyish grin, as bright and goofy as every other man in Team Salming's locker room.

"Expectations for myself and my team today?" Gilmour said, the grin spreading wider still. "Low. Not too much. How's that?"

He liked the suggestion that if you expect very little, you need do very little to meet your objectives.

Gilmour practically pole-vaulted over the lofty bars he set as a player (450 goals, 1,141 points in 1,474 games), the boiling blood of a competitor more than compensating for a physique hilariously advertised at 175 pounds that took a brutal pounding every night.

He played 20 seasons in the NHL from 1983-03 for the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and, for one final game, the Maple Leafs again.

Although Gilmour won his only Stanley Cup championship with the Flames in 1989, it was with the Maple Leafs that the native of Kingston, Ontario is best known.

Killer's No. 93 jersey was retired to the rafters of Air Canada Centre at the Maple Leafs' October home opener, and it was with that team at the top of his list in 2011 that Gilmour was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Legends Classic Sunday was a nostalgic, feel-good exercise for everyone, though it was an endurance and/or survival test for others, no matter that it was a game of two 20-minute periods with a scheduled six-round shootout.

Gilmour, 53, figures this will be his busiest year of lacing his skates in probably five years, saying he'll play in "probably" seven alumni or charity games. He'll take part in the Dec. 31 outdoor alumni game in Toronto a day before the Maple Leafs play the Detroit Red Wings in the Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic.

And there's a chance that he'll participate in the Canadiens' third annual Fantasy Camp in February.

"It would be fun to go back up there," said Gilmour, who played 131 games for the Canadiens from 2001-03.

(The practical joker's defining moment in Montreal came after he exploded the glass on Bell Centre's penalty-box door late in a season-ending 8-2 blowout loss against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2002. Gilmour took a shovelful of the mess later that night and filled the pockets of unsuspecting then-Canadiens owner George Gillett at the team dinner.)

Sitting to the right of Gilmour in Team Salming's locker room Sunday was Maple Leafs icon Wendel Clark, making sweet music by noisily whipping tape in tight revolutions around his stockings; on his way out for warm-up, Gilmour happily mugged for a photo with fellow Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler.

"You'll see at times today that the guys will pick it up a little bit and then they'll bring it back a notch," Gilmour said. "I went to Winnipeg two years ago and played in a tournament, Guns vs. Hoses, police officers against firefighters. Their average age was 27, 28 and we played three stop-time periods."

"I pretty much said to them at the end of the game, 'Lose my number, please, I can't play like this anymore,' Gimour said with a laugh. There was a lot of competitive juice flowing that day. I think I took three penalties, too."

Gilmour admitted that his own timing, and that of many who were skating for Team Salming's Maple Leafs alumni and the NHL legends on Team Lindros, was perhaps not quite what it was during their prime. But any shortcomings would be outweighed by the fun everyone expected to have.

Gilmour figures he'll be on the ice a half-dozen times next month with the Ontario Hockey League major-junior Kingston Frontenacs, scrimmaging and working on faceoffs with the centermen.

"Yes, they respect me," he said of the juniors - as they should, given that he's the team's general manager.

Video: Hockey Hall of Fame inductees accept honorary rings

This is a special weekend for Gilmour, who knows the emotional ride being enjoyed by this year's Hall of Fame inductees. He was on the ice Sunday for the pre-game presentation of crested blazers to this year's class - players Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov and Rogie Vachon, with a fourth red bow-tied blazer given to Kalli Quinn, the daughter of Pat Quinn, who posthumously joins the Hall in the Builders category.

"They've all been going hard the past couple of days," Gilmour said of the Class of 2016. "Today's blazer presentation is a great thing, it's almost surreal, but (Monday) morning this will really hit home as they get near the induction at night.

"I just couldn't believe it when I was inducted. When you start your career, you don't say, 'OK, I'm planning to get to the Hall of Fame.' When it happens, you're overwhelmed with the thank-yous that you want to say. I think everyone will be relieved (Monday) night when they've done their speeches and they go to the after-party and see their plaques on the wall. My dad was still alive when it happened for me, and it was great to have him there."

Warm-up now minutes away, Gilmour tried unsuccessfully to tap into the steely-eyed intensity he had as a player.

"Honestly, we all just love getting out there," he said. "(Shayne) Corson was saying to us, 'Every year we're getting slower and slower.' You get a couple guys who retired not long ago so they're different. And we have the fitness guru down there, (Gary) Roberts, so he'd better pick his game up.

"My biggest thing," Gilmour said through another grin, "is going to be getting my legs going in warm-up and making sure all the lactic acid won't build up."

Killer would leave Air Canada Centre late afternoon on the short end of an 8-7 score. But at least he walked out without a limp.

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