"Well," Doug answered, "we were getting close to the road and...."
"I don't care," Don snapped. "You never stop running until you're down."
When Gilmour was a 17-year-old rookie with the Cornwall Royals of the Ontario (Junior) Hockey League, he scored 119 points in 67 games. But because he was only 5'9" and weighed barely 150 pounds, he wasn't drafted until the Blues selected him in the seventh round. Angered by the slight, Gilmour returned to Cornwall the next year determined to show his mettle. Early in the season he picked a fight with the Kitchener Rangers' Mike Eagles, who punched Gilmour in the right cheek and cracked his orbital bone. Gilmour felt his face sag, but he finished the game.
As a rookie in St. Louis, Gilmour ran wild with the veteran hell-raiser Sutter on his left wing. By the 1986 playoffs Gilmour had also blossomed offensively; he led postseason scorers with 21 points and carried the Blues to the Western Conference finals. By this time the combination of relentless desire and rare passing ability had made him a star. He was traded to the Calgary Flames before the '88-89 season in an eight-player deal that St. Louis would rue, and he immediately drove his new team to the Stanley Cup. Consider this classic snapshot from the Gilmour album: In overtime of Game 1 of the Smythe Division finals against the Los Angeles Kings, Gilmour collided with the Kings' 6'1", 200-pound forward John Tonelli, whose stick tore a gash in Gilmour's cheek. Minutes later Gilmour scored the game-winning goal, and only then did he take the six stitches required to close the cut. The Flames went on to sweep the series.
"When a little guy is sacrificing his body and making plays, it affects the whole team," says Boston Bruins defenseman Dave Ellett. "Doug never gives up, and he has skills."
Ellett discovered that as Gilmour's teammate in Toronto, where Gilmour was traded in '92 after he became embroiled in a contract dispute with Calgary. Though the Leafs went Cupless during Gilmour's five years with the team, his tenacity won the hearts of Toronto fans. He lost his two front teeth to the stick blade of the Blackhawks' Jeremy Roenick soon after arriving, and the image of Gilmour's fanged grimace at practice the next day symbolized the Leafs. Nicknamed Killer because he resembles Charles Manson, Gilmour sometimes looked more menacing than the crazed cult leader.
Twice Gilmour led the Leafs to the conference finals. In 1993 the Kings vowed to bully Gilmour into submission, but he exchanged head butts with 6'1", 235-pound enforcer Marty McSorley and at one point flattened 200-pound defenseman Alexei Zhitnik with a hip check. He kept scoring, too. Even though the Leafs lost in seven games, Gilmour had 35 points in 21 playoff matches.
The next season Gilmour again led by example. Before Game 6 of the first-round playoff series against Chicago, he let a doctor wiggle four needles filled with novocaine into his swollen right foot so that he could play. His teammates stood in awe. The Leafs won 1-0. "I didn't think he could play," says Leafs trainer Chris Broadhurst, "but he never doubted it."
"There was another time, in Hartford, when I felt bone fragments below his left shoulder," Broadhurst adds. "The X-ray showed that some bone had chipped off. We expected him to be out six weeks. The next day he said it felt O.K. He never missed a shift."
Over the next few years the Leafs went into decline. Gilmour, however, persevered despite two herniated disks in his back that sent such pain through his body that he couldn't bend over to tie his skates. Frustrated with the club's fall, Gilmour worked harder even though his body started breaking down, and he began popping painkillers daily. When the Leafs begged him to sit out a few practices to give his body a break, he seethed. Once he threw his stick at an assistant who tried to coax him off the ice during a scrimmage.