As a former NHL superstar, Stanley Cup winner (with the Calgary Flames) and longtime captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Doug Gilmour, 49, is no stranger to the spotlight. Now, as the General Manager of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs, the busy father of four continues to spend his off-hours doing charity work, including hosting this year’s first annual Dougieball baseball game to raise funds for the TeamUp Foundation. The recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee has also been included in NHL 13, the latest video game release from EA Sports — and he can’t wait to tell his kids about it.
How did you find out you were being included in EA Sports’ NHL 13?
It was through Jackson Events. I have two boys that just turned 16 and 14 and if it’s a rainy day they are inside playing hockey video games. They’ve always wanted to get me on the game, so when I was asked I said I’d love to be a part of it. I’ve been 10 years retired now, so to still be a part of hockey is amazing. I get goosebumps when I see the kids playing it, and to me that’s what it’s all about.
How does it feel to be placed in the NHL Legends category with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux?
I’m kind of in awe to be a part of that group. At the same time, my boys are at that age where hockey is becoming more important to them now. They want to go through the same [sports] programs that I went through to see if they can make it to that next level.
What did your kids think when they heard the news about the game?
I haven’t told them yet! I’ve kept this a secret. They’ve obviously heard that the game is coming out but they have no idea that I’m in it.
Have you played the game yet?
Yes, but I’m not very good at video games. My favourite [arcade] video game is “Pong” which shows my age! (laughs) I never got the hang of the hand-eye coordination for video games.
And does the avatar actually look like you?
A much younger me, yeah. (laughs)
What do you miss most about playing in the NHL?
The game itself and playing a team sport. I’m always going to miss it even though, after 20 years of playing, my body doesn’t miss it. One of the things I noticed when I retired, that you really take for granted, is the initial walkout on the ice after the warm-up is over. The lights are off and you’re coming out and here comes all the excitement. That part is something I miss; that adrenaline side. What I can tell the kids who are playing in the NHL right now is just to have a good time with it and absorb it — but don’t take advantage of it because it could be over real quick. I was fortunate enough to play for 20 years but it seems like it was only five.
What is the most rewarding thing about coaching and managing the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs?
It’s a development league that we’re in. It’s almost like you’re a parent of some kind who gives them direction — you step in and set the ground rules. These kids are between 16 and 20 years old and it’s great to see them come together as a team and compete. And, more importantly, it’s in their focus. That’s where you really see them develop over time.
This July you hosted the first annual Dougieball in Toronto. What first inspired you to get into charity work?
I’ve always done charity work. I used to have a charity bowling event and I brought [musician] Jim Cuddy in to be a part of it with me. We did it for Ronald McDonald House and the Special Olympics. I’ve also always been involved with Sick Kids Hospital. I just feel that if you have the opportunity to bring a lot of people together and corporate sponsors to help raise money, it’s very important. Years ago I met this young lady in Calgary named Janelle. She was the same age as my daughter at the time and she had leukemia. It really hit home. I developed a strong bond with her and she ended up passing away, but I’ve been in touch with her family ever since. It really hits you, especially when you have your own kids. This girl inspired me because, despite the pain she was going through with the chemo, whenever I’d walk in to visit her, she’d smile. I’m very fortunate to play a game but, in reality, this is life.
What is the most memorable interaction you’ve ever had with a young fan?
It’d probably be Janelle. I’ve met a lot of kids but she really hit me hard. I was probably 27 years old at the time and still a little ripe. Janelle was in remission for almost two years but then it came back. We all do it [every now and then]; we think we’ve had a tough day. Well, no, we haven’t had a tough day. Walk around in someone else’s shoes for a bit. Just remind yourself that your day was fine.
What are your top tips for kids in hockey?
Have fun. Work hard. Remember it’s a team game and something you should all enjoy together. There’s an old saying from a sports newscaster in Kingston who said: “If you can’t play a sport, be one.” It’s all about being supportive and giving kids the confidence that they need. Let them be proud and excited about what they are doing.
EA Sports’ NHL 13 game for Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 will be released in North America on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012.