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Gilmour book is a Killer read

If you were a small boy with dreams of hockey glory in the 1980s or 1990s, the player you most identified with probably depended on your age and where you grew up. I grew up as a relatively untalented and unproductive winger who attempted, poorly, to emulate Theoren Fleury. But for many youngsters throughout Canada, but particularly out in Ontario, a generation tried to be like Doug Gilmour.

One of the game’s most beloved (and occasionally controversial) figures bares his life to the world in Killer: My Life In Hockey, co-written by Dan Robson – who you might remember from his work on the Pat Quinn bio Quinn: The Life of a Hockey Legend and Clint Malarchuk’s autobiography The Crazy Game. As with his previous collaborations, Robson captures Gilmour’s memories with an engaging and unique voice.

Killer is an immersive read. Gilmour and Robson start at the very beginning, with the hockey star’s childhood in Kingston, Ontario, and share a few anecdotes that illustrate incidents that shaped Gilmour into the man he eventually became – with Gilmour’s father playing a central role throughout. An incident involving his siblings playing on some ice is particularly gripping and sets the tone for the almost “fly on the wall” narrative perspective that’s used throughout.

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The best praise I can give Killer is that it feels like a deeper dive version of Gilmour’s Players Tribune piece from last March. The book is a much more expansive look at Gilmour’s life and career, starting with his humble beginnings with the Cornwall Royals and walking the reader right through his entire NHL career. The thing the book arguably does as well as any recent hockey bio is put you into Gilmour’s headspace regarding the various situations he’s been in his career. Whether it’s trying to make Team Canada, his time with the Blues, his departure from the Flames or his tenure with the Leafs, Gilmour provides enough information to understand where his thought process was coming from. Flames fans may find themselves fuming when reading about the January 1992 trade between Calgary and Toronto that is widely considered to be the worst trade in Flames history.

The descriptions of Gilmour’s various relationships, particular with coaches Jacques Demers, Jacques Martin and Pat Burns and teammate Brian Sutter, do a great job of fleshing out the hockey world outside of the player. The league’s free agency system and escalating salaries are a recurring theme, tying in with Gilmour’s ascent to the top of the NHL pecking order. Contextual information is sprinkled throughout and rather than being info dumps, they’re used sporadically enough that you just know what’s mentioned is going to be important.

The notable exception to the depth approach is the treatment of the summer 1988 allegations against Gilmour that led to his departure from St. Louis. The exclusion is a bit jarring, if completely understandable given everything that went on.

Killer is a deep dive into the life and times, and mindset, of Gilmour. It spends a ton of time getting the reader comfortable in the player’s head so they can try to grasp the motivations, pressures and lifestyle experienced by the Kingston native during his entire hockey career. It’s not something that can be read in one sitting, as it’s a pretty thick read, but it’s also a book that you’ll find yourself starting to read only to discover several hours have blown by.

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Gilmour’s a fascinating person and Killer does a great job at capturing his voice.


  • class1div1

    The Flames in the late 80’s were a phenomenal hockey team. Gilmour was a big part of that.I can n’t wait for this read. There’s another read i’ve been waiting for and that is the 1981 team that went to the semi’s beating Chicago with Esposito in net and Philidelphia with Bobby Clark and his stickwork.Our beloved Kent Nillson scored 131 points that season and needs to write a book.
    Ill bet ia’m not the only one who remembers this fantastic run.Your audience is more diverse than you think Ryan.I started playing hockey in 58 and like many other kids emulated #9 in Detroit.

  • Sven

    “The Flames in the late 80’s were a phenomenal hockey team…..”

    understatement

    The Flames of the late 80’s were one of the greatest teams of all time:

    From the Hockey News:

    “The greatest (remarkable in magnitude), single-season NHL team in history is the 1988-89 Calgary Flames. How much did the Flames stand out in 1989? They ran up 117 points (54-17-9) in 80 games, while no other Western team managed more than 92 points. Calgary was second in the NHL in offense (354 goals), and second in defense (226 goals allowed). This made their goal differential a record plus-128! They ranked first on the power play (101 goals, 24.94%), second in penalty killing (82.93%), and were nearly unbeatable at the Saddledome, posting a 32-4-4 record.
    Joe Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk scored 51 goals each. Goalie Mike Vernon won 37 of his 48 starts. Every player on the roster, except an aging Lanny McDonald (minus-1) was on the plus side of the plus-minus stat. Thirteen players were plus-20 or better, with two players at plus-45 or better. Eight Flames scored 50 points or more. Terry Crisp’s club won the Presidents’ Trophy, went 16-6 in the playoffs, and beat the vaunted Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. Doug Gilmour, Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Theo Fleury, Gary Roberts, Gary Suter, Hakan Loob, Joel Otto, Al MacInnis, and Lanny McDonald … enough said!”-

    Two 50 goal scorers – and four others who had scored, or would score 50 in other seasons….
    .
    and Doug Gilmour ………….
    .
    Cliff Fletcher is a member of our club in Scottsdale – and the stories he can tell in the men’s lounge

    (still bitter that the Flames brass has never taken the time to honor him as the teams architect though…. )

      • freethe flames

        I remember it well, watching the game with my best friend in the bar; watching the Habs fan in Calgary crying in their beer. I was just shy of being 30.

    • class1div1

      Did Cliff tell you the story about the coach losing it on bench and going into tirades,screaming and swearing at the players on pretty much a nightly basis. Wouldn’t happen now.You could hear Crisp half way around the building.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Crispy berating his players loudly, frequently and publically is ultimately what led to his being fired the next year. In hindsight, that might have been the wrong move as it empowered the players–a case of the inmates running the asylum–and began a long stretch of questionable coaching hires.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      All true but the club was a whisker away from being bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the lowly Canucks, and it was two ex-Flames–Paul Reinhart and Stevie Bozak–who were prominent in almost killing the dream season.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I think all Flames fans were relieved in Game 6 that it was Gilmour and not Mullen who shot the puck at the open net to seal the win and the cup as it was Mulley who had a last-minute shot at the open net in Game 3 and missed. Canadiens then got the tying goal and the OT winner. Mulley was a great player and a terrific scorer, but unlike Gretzky whose greatest goals were into empty nets, shooting pucks into empty nets was not his forte. Killer didn’t care if a net was open or not. He buried them just the same.