The New York Rangers say goodbye to defenseman Gilles Marotte. The gritty blueliner, who played the better parts of three seasons with the Blueshirts, passed away at the age of 60 (1973-76). Marotte was born in Montreal on January 7, 1945.
Nicknamed "Captain Crunch," Marotte was one of the strongest players in the NHL. He was a standup type of defenseman, with a low-centered frame that kept him close to the ice. Marotte made a career out of separating his opponents from the puck with lethal, yet legal body-checks. His physical style of play made him popular with the fans, who believed that Marotte was built of solid muscle. However, behind his muscular exterior loomed ability and hockey finesse. Marotte was a good skater with a powerful shot from the point, making him capable of offensive surges not often associated with defensemen. He had a rare touch with the puck that allowed him to move it well and accumulate high assist totals.
The Rangers were Marotte's fourth NHL team. He broke into the NHL and spent two seasons with the Boston Bruins in 1965-67, but the franchise included him in a trade that brought Ken Hodge and a young Phil Esposito to Boston and sent Marotte to Chicago. He spent the next three seasons with the Blackhawks before joining the Los Angeles Kings in 1969, where he spent parts of five seasons. During 1973-74, Rangers Coach and General Manager Emile Francis acquired Marotte mid-season in a five-man trade with the Kings. In this first year with the team, Marotte helped them reach the semi-finals, where they were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers who continued on to win the Stanley Cup. In 1976, Marotte landed in St. Louis, playing his final NHL season with the Blues.
Before joining the Bruins, Marotte did not play a single game in the minor leagues. After an all-star career in junior hockey with the Niagara Falls Flyers of the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA-Jr.), he jumped straight to the show. Marotte played in 180 games with the Rangers, amassing 10 goals, 66 assists (76 points), and 131 penalty minutes.~ Matt Friedman