Gilmour leaving Marlies

Doug Gilmour will try his hand at coaching in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs. (Sun...

Doug Gilmour will try his hand at coaching in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs. (Sun Media/Darren Makowichuk)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:31 PM ET

Fan favourite Doug Gilmour is leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.

Gilmour, who had been serving as an assistant coach with the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies, is heading back to his home town to take over head coaching duties with the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs, who are mired in the basement of the East Conference's East Division at 5-13-4-1.

"It's very difficult to leave because Greg Gilbert, Cliff Fletcher, Jeff Jackson, the entire Leaf organization were great to me," Gilmour said this afternoon. "It was tough to tell the (Marlie) players this morning. But, like Cliff told me, this is a great opportunity. My goal is to be a head coach and this is a step in that direction."

Gilmour first was offered a position with the Frontenacs during the summer, but said "the timing just wasn't right like it is now."

Gilmour and Frontenacs general manager Larry Mavety have a long history together dating back to the days when Gilmour was a long-haired defenceman with Tier 2 Belleville. In fact, Mavety deserves the credit for turning Gilmour into the point-producing machine that has now earned him consideration as a candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"Larry was my coach in Belleville," Gilmour said. "He is the guy who took me off the blue line and put me at centre."

Gilmour still owns a home in Kingston and said his parents, Don and Dolly, are "thrilled" at the news. Both his mother and father are in their late 70s.

Before accepting the job, Gilmour made it clear that he needed to return to Toronto at least one or two days a week in order to spend time with his sons Jake, 12, and Tyson, 10. Gilmour said the team was quite willing to accommodate his request.

The addition of Gilmour, one of Kingston's favourite sons, is certain to balloon interest in the team, helping to put butts into the impressive K-Rock Centre, the new 5,700-seat arena that just opened for business earlier this year.

But Gilmour is quick to point out his hiring goes much deeper than just a move to drum up interest in the sagging franchise.

"People will say: ‘It was done for publicity and to sell tickets.' That's not true. Like I said, they approached me in the off-season but the timing wasn't right. It is now," Gilmour said.

"Remember, I tried to purchase the Oshawa Generals in the off-season. Had that gone through, I would have been there. The Marlies opportunity came up after that, and I really appreciated it. It's hard to leave Greg and those players but I couldn't pass this up.

"At the end of the season we'll have to see where I go from there. But right now the timing is good for me."

While Gilmour would not say it, the opportunity to land a position on the Maple Leaf coaching staff in the foreseeable future was practically nil. Head coach Ron Wilson and assistants Rob Zettler and Tim Hunter are established behind the bench and have done respectable jobs thus far.

"I'll miss the (Leafs) organization, but I had to jump at this chance," he said.

Gilmour's first game behind the Frontenacs bench will be against the Bulls in Belleville Friday night.

Meanwhile, Leaf fans will have the opportunity to see No. 93 again when his jersey is raised to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Jan. 31.


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