Saskatoon

'Go to school': Former NHL star Doug Gilmour's message in Saskatoon

NHL Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour stopped in Saskatoon this week and spoke to CBC's Eric Anderson about hockey players pursuing an education.

Gilmour in Saskatoon for University of Saskatchewan Huskies annual alumni luncheon

Former Toronto Maple Leafs star Doug Gilmour in Saskatoon. (Eric Anderson/CBC)

Hundreds of young hockey players across the province are chasing their NHL dreams by playing in the Western Hockey League. Unfortunately, those dreams will not come true for many athletes.

Luckily, that's not the end of the line.

More and more athletes are realizing the value in playing hockey while getting a university education. Add NHL Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour to the list of people who believe in hockey players pursuing an education.

"You don't know how your junior career is going to go and how your development process is," Gilmour told Saskatchewan Weekend host Eric Anderson. 

Gilmour is well known for his gritty play with several NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs. These days, he's the general manager of the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs.

"I'm back in the junior ranks, and you see in reality there is one or two per cent of the kids who are moving on (to the NHL)," he said. 

This week, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies celebrated their graduates at their annual alumni luncheon with Gilmour as a guest speaker.

In the WHL, a player receives one year of tuition and books for every year they play in the league. The program allows those who don't end up playing professionally an opportunity to pursue an education.

There's not a lot of kids that are going to the NHL.- Doug Gilmour

"It's a great thing," he said. "I have a boy who is at Brock University now taking the school package and I'm very proud of him."

Gilmour said it's very rewarding to see a player who understands the value of going to university.

Doug Gilmour was one of the best two-way forwards during the heyday of his career with St. Louis, Calgary and Toronto. ((Getty Images))

"We're drafting 15-year-old kids," he said. "So they're going two or three year window to play with us. And again, it's a reality side of it that there's not a lot of kids that are going to the NHL."

"When their career is over, there's guys that are going through law school."

While some may see CIS hockey as great way for a player to finish their career, that's not always the case. 
    
In 2014, immediately following an incredible performance at the University Cup in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Huskies forward Derek Hulak signed a deal with the Dallas Stars AHL affiliate.

Gilmour said players used to go to the minor leagues or Europe to pursue their hockey careers following high school or junior hockey. Now, he's suggesting a different route.

"Go to school for first," Gilmour said. "Then when you're career is done, you got your education. If you want to try to go to Europe, then go then."

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