For a little more than a decade, I’ve had the privilege of being part of the Kingston Frontenacs organization — first as a coach, then as general manager and team president.
It was an opportunity I hadn’t anticipated, but it turned into one of the most important chapters of my life, both in the game and beyond it.
That’s why today is bittersweet.
After 11 years with the Frontenacs, it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter. I’ve decided to step aside as president of an organization that has meant as much to me as any I’ve ever been part of.
At the same time, I’m excited to return to another: the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I’m taking on a new role as a community representative with the Leafs — alongside some of my good friends Darryl Sittler, Wendel Clark, Curtis Joseph, and Darcy Tucker.
I’m thrilled to be returning to Toronto in a formal capacity at a time when there is so much excitement for a team stacked with incredible talent.
More on that in a bit. But right now, I want to say something about my hometown and what it means to me.
I learned how to skate and play the game on Kingston’s outdoor rinks and in classic old barns like Cooks Arena, back when chicken-wire lined the boards. Even when I went on to play in the NHL, Kingston was always home to me.
I left an assistant coaching job with Toronto Marlies to join the Frontenacs because it was an opportunity to return to a community that had meant so much to me. It was a chance to reunite with Larry Mavety, who was running the organization at the time — and who had given me my first opportunity in junior hockey, when I was an undersized kid all those years ago. It was a chance to work with a wonderful ownership group in the Springer family. It was a chance to build something special with an historic organization — and watch some of the finest young people I’d ever met grow into remarkable adults.
It was also an opportunity to share the game with my mother and father again.
My dad, Don, was a local sports legend who coached me and my older brother, Dave, when we were growing up. My mother, Dolly, was a bit of a legend herself. One time, during one of my brother’s games at the Kingston Memorial Centre, she grabbed a stick off the bench leaned over the boards and hooked a referee because she didn’t like one of his calls. Another time, she threw a shoe at an opposing team’s coach — and hit him right the head. My Dad taught me a lot about work ethic, but I probably got the “Killer” from Mom.
Mom and Dad lived a few blocks away from the Leon’s Centre in downtown Kingston. They attended every Frontenacs game. I’d spent so many years away, chasing the hockey dream they gave me the opportunity to pursue. Now I was able to complete the circle, and come home.
For a few years, Dad was able to tell me everything I was doing wrong with the Frontenacs. He gave me all of the advice he gleaned from the stands. Some of it was pretty good. It was just like old times. Later, when I moved on to my role as general manager and president, I was able to sit in our box at the arena alongside my mother — who was as passionate about the game as ever.
I was crushed when Dad died in the fall of 2012. But I was grateful that I’d been able to spend those few years with him again. I shared the seasons that followed with Mom, even as her health declined and her memory started to fade. She’d cruise around the rink with her walker, saying “hi” to everyone she knew. She was Dolly Gilmour, fiery as always, right until the end. She was the best hockey mom you could ask for.
When Mom died a couple of years ago, I knew my time in Kingston was winding down. To be honest, it was hard to be there without them.
I sold the cottage that I had on Loughborough Lake, just outside of Kingston. It was on a lot next to the small bungalow that my parents had owned since I was young. We’d shared so many memories on the lake — in my childhood, throughout my career, and in retirement. But all things end.
My wonderful wife, Sonya, and our amazing young daughter, Victoria, live in Burlington — three hours away, on the other side of Toronto. I found it hard to spend time away from them and worried whenever they tried to make those long, snowy drives down the 401. During one trip, we drove down separately in two cars on a particularly slippery day and I watched in terror in my rear-view mirror as Sonya and Victoria spun out on the highway behind me. Thankfully they were okay, but it was enough of a scare to remind me of what really matters.
I’m proud of what we accomplished in my time with the Frontenacs.
I can’t thank the Springer family enough for giving me the opportunity to be part of this great organization for 11 seasons. We had some ups and some downs. I learned that in the OHL there are different rules for different teams, which can be frustrating at times. (I’ll leave it at that.)
The most rewarding part of my time with the Frontenacs wasn’t seeing players go on to the NHL. That was always great, and I’m proud of the guys who did.
But to me, it was even more rewarding seeing the guys who took their school packages and pursued opportunities in university and college after their playing days were done. It was inspiring to see them chase dreams beyond the rink — and in some cases receive an education that they would have otherwise not been able to afford. They are making something with the rest of their lives. I’m so fortunate to have watched them develop and thrive.
Today, the Frontenacs are a team with some incredible young talent, like Shane Wright. There are exciting years ahead under the leadership of Darren Keily and Jeff Twohey.
It’s going to be a team that the amazing Frontenac fans deserve to cheer for. I’ll be watching from afar — and, of course, at the rink now and then — cheering alongside them.
I want to thank those fans for all of their support. I want to thank Kurtis Foster and our coaching staff, and the unsung heroes on the training staff and the wizards on our scouting staff. I want to thank Justin Chenier and the rest of the front office, and everyone who keeps this team moving. Thank you to Larry and Brenda Mavety. Thank you to the Springer Family.
Now it’s time for a new opportunity, back in my other home — Toronto. I’m excited to spend more time with my family because they mean more to me than the game ever could. I’m proud to watch my two sons, Tyson and Jake, grow into incredible young men. I’m thrilled to be close to my eldest daughter Maddison, who lives with her beautiful family in the Niagara region. And I’m so fortunate to be able to spend more family time with Sonya and Victoria, who both amaze me every day.
It’s time for a new chapter. It’s time to come back to the blue and white.
I spoke with Brendan Shanahan about the new role with the team the other week — and I couldn’t be more excited. The most memorable days of my career were spent playing in front of Toronto’s fans. Now, I get to be one of them. I know several players on this team personally. There isn’t a better group to lead the franchise into a new era.
As they shut out all the outside noise, I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.
I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the tradition of so many distinguished alumni before me.
Thank you, Toronto.
And thank you, Frontenacs. It’s been such an honour to be part of this franchise. And always, to Kingston — because nothing in my life would have been possible without my hometown.