Hockey

Doug Gilmour announces retirement

Buffalo Sabres centre Doug Gilmour has announced his retirement from the NHL.

The veteran of 18 NHL seasons had hinted earlier that this would be his last season, and with the Sabres' elimination from the NHL playoffs at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, a formal decision on his future had been expected to be imminent.

A month away from his 38th birthday, Gilmour made the announcement Saturday morning at the HSBC arena as the Sabres cleaned out their lockers - Gilmour's for good.

"It's been a great ride," Gilmour said, adding that he confirmed the decision after talking to his wife following the Sabres' 3-2 overtime loss Thursday.

"There's nobody that can read me better than she can. She just looked at me and said, 'You're done, aren't you?' And I said, 'Yeah.' So we'll have to leave it at that. My terms."

"It's all about family now. When your hockey time comes to an end, it's time to be a dad and go back to the real life and enjoy the next 30-40 years, whatever we have."

A likely future Hall-of-Famer, the Kingston, Ont. native (as Don Cherry has long reminded his viewers) leaves the NHL with the Stanley Cup ring he won with the Calgary in 1989 and host of accolades.

Beginning his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues in 1983-84 after a brilliant junior career with Cornwall of the Ontario Hockey League, Gilmour racked up 429 goals and 914 assists (11th on the all-time list) through stints with Calgary, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago and Buffalo. His 1,343 career points rank him 18th on the all-time list.

Gilmour scored two goals and four assists in the 2001 playoffs to give him 178 career playoff points to move into seventh spot on the all-time list, ahead of Jean Beliveau and Denis Savard.

Gilmour had just completed the final season of a three-year contract with Sabres, who picked up Gilmour along with rising star J-P Dumont in March 2000 from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Michal Grosek.

Gilmour was reunited in Buffalo with Dave Andreychuk, an old linemate from the Toronto day, and finished the 2000-01 season with seven goals and 31 assists for 38 points in 71 regular season games.

"It's not a surprise to us," said Andreychuk, who has been aware of Gilmour's plans for some time. "You can't summarize what we've gone through playing with each other, playing against each other. There's going to be a lot of memories."

In a curious footnote to such a distinguished career, Gilmour was central to three of the most lopsided trades in recent NHL history. Aside from the Chicago-Buffalo trade, Gilmour was dealt by St. Louis to Calgary with Mark Hunter, Steve Bozek and Michael Dark for Mike Bullard, Craig Coxe and Tim Corkery in September 1988.

Three-and-a-half years later, the Flames sent Gilmour to Toronto with Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Kent Manderville and Rick Wamsley in exchange for Gary Leeman, Alex Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit and Craig Berube.

Gilmour's most memorable seasons were in Calgary and Toronto. Renowned for feisty, hard-nosed play and fierce checking, along with his playmaking imagination, Gilmour was an integral part of the powerful Flames team of the late 1980s and early '90s. He scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 1989 Stanley Cup final against Montreal.

His trade to Toronto midway through the 1991-92 campaign immediately turned around the long-floundering Maple Leafs and was the decisive move leading to two consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup semifinals in 1993 and 1994 - the first for Toronto since 1978.

The 1992-93 season was the best of Gilmour's career, and his 95 assists and 127 points remain single-season club records. He captivated the entire city with his inspired play during the playoffs. His weight, which always seemed exaggerated in media guides at 175 pounds, became a city-wide obsession, as he routinely lost several pounds in the course of his 30 minutes of ice time per game in the playoffs.

A finalist for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player that season, Gilmour won the Selke Trophy in 1993 as the league's top defensive forward and was runner-up for the Selke in 1994.

Gilmour said he has bought a house in Toronto, where he and his wife plan to raise their children, and he invited reporters to check in on him in a recreation league.

"If you guys want to see me, I'm going to play next year on Thursday nights, if you want to come down and see how I'm doing."