Recently, while attending a gathering for a close friend’s important anniversary, the opportunity to cross off another of my life’s goals came my way. Now, I share a special day with one of my best friends and former Maple Leaf Doug Gilmour.
T en years ago this past weekend, one of my closest friends, Will Jones, died of a cardiac event. What’s most incredible about his story isn’t just that he was 17 years old, but that he was successfully revived — in part because of his teachers’ effective use of CPR — and has gone on to live a normal life.
Will is one of the most remarkable people I know. He’s family. So, when he decided to hold a party celebrating his second (and well-taken) chance at life, I made sure I was available. The plan was to meet up with him in his new home town of Toronto where he and 100 of his closest friends would mingle and celebrate that our friend is still with us.
After spending some time together elsewhere, we ended up at The Gladstone Hotel bar before too many others arrived. We laugh, we spoke, we speak, we drunk — and generally had a good time. At one point, midway through the night, I returned from the washroom and my friend Elliott told me, with happiness in his voice: “Doug Gilmour is here having a drink!”
My first thought: “Oh, that’s nice.”
I sat back down at my seat, glanced over at the bar and spotted the former Maple Leaf, drink in hand, talking to what looked like a fan.
My second thought: “This is my chance to cross off one of my life goals.”
I got up from my seat and sauntered excitedly towards the bar. It seemed like his conversation was ending, so I put my hand on his shoulder. He turned to me, held out his hand and smiled a “hey there, fan, nice to meet you” smile. I shook his hand, smiled back and said, “Doug — I just wanted you to know — I always hated the Leafs and I always hated you.” It was glorious.
Gilmour was great about it. “That’s okay,” he said, still shaking my hand. I found out he was staying at the hotel because of its proximity to the hospital, where he became a grandfather that night. I congratulated him, went back to my seat, and spent the next half hour basking in the glow of an accomplished goal.
Gilmour stayed for a bit, mingling with regular patrons and those who knew Will, alike. Eventually a group of my friends were talking to him, and they called me over to the conversation, explaining to him that my uncle had played for the Bruins. We talked a little longer, I made fun of his archaic BlackBerry, reminded him that I hated him (to my friend Antonio’s delight) and thanked him for helping me accomplish a goal so affably.
What a fantastic night shared with friends, and Doug Gilmour.