The New York Rangers are saddened to learn of the passing of Rangers legend Rod Gilbert, who passed away at the age of 80.
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Rod Gilbert - one of the greatest Rangers to ever play for our organization and one of the greatest ambassadors the game of hockey has ever had," said James Dolan, Executive Chairman, Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. "While his on-ice achievements rightly made him a Hall of Famer, it was his love for the Rangers and the people of New York that endeared him to generations of fans and forever earned him the title, 'Mr. Ranger.' Our thoughts are with Rod's wife, Judy, and the entire Gilbert family during this difficult time. They will always be a part of the Rangers family."
"Everyone in the Rangers organization mourns the loss of a true New York icon," said Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury. "Rod's remarkable talent and zest for life personified this city and endeared him to hockey fans and non-hockey fans alike. Growing up a young Rangers fan, one of the first names I ever heard about was Rod Gilbert - he was synonymous with Rangers hockey. It was an incredible privilege to get to know Rod. His passion and dedication to the Rangers will forever be a source of inspiration for me."
Born on July 1, 1941, Gilbert won the hearts of New York fans while becoming an NHL legend over parts of 18 seasons - all as a Ranger - from 1960-61 to 1977-78. During his career, Gilbert established or matched 20 team scoring records, and at the time of his retirement in 1977, was second only to Gordie Howe in points by a right winger in NHL history. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.
The Montreal, Quebec native finished his NHL career with 406 goals and 615 assists for 1,021 points in 1,065 games, along with 34 goals and 33 assists in 79 playoff matches. Gilbert ranks first on the Rangers' all-time goals and points lists, while he is the only Blueshirt to tally at least 400 career goals or at least 1,000 career points. Playing with Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield on the 'GAG Line' (goal-a-game), Gilbert established career-highs with 43 goals and 97 points and earned First Team All-Star honors in 1971-72. Over the course of his career, he appeared in eight NHL All-Star Games and was voted a Second Team All-Star in 1967-68.
In 1976, Gilbert received the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." The award was a fitting tribute to the courage and spirit of Gilbert, recognizing the hard work and determination that helped him overcome major back surgery early in his career, including two follow-up spinal fusion operations, to establish himself as one of hockey's all-time greats.
Following his playing career, Gilbert became a beloved fixture for the organization and its fans over 32 seasons, most recently serving as Director, Special Projects and Community Relations Representative. Over the course of his off-ice career he helped lead the growth and development of the New York Rangers Alumni Association, as well as assist in many areas of community and sponsor relations. Gilbert also served as a goodwill ambassador for Madison Square Garden and was deeply committed to the Garden of Dreams Foundation, conducting countless appearances, media interviews, and special experiences for Foundation charity partners in conjunction with the team. Over the decades, he was tireless in his efforts to raise funds and generate awareness for numerous worthwhile charitable groups throughout the Tri-State area, particularly relating to children. He and his wife, Judy, also served on the board of the Ronald McDonald House.
Gilbert is immortalized in New York hockey history, as his No. 7 jersey became the first number ever to be retired by the Rangers, when it was raised to The Garden rafters on October 14, 1979. In September 2007, the National Hockey League Alumni Association honored Gilbert with the 2007 Man of the Year Award.
Gilbert is survived by his wife, Judy, his siblings, Jean Marie, André, and Pauline (sister-in-law), his children, Chantal, Justin, Holly, and Brooke, and his grandchildren, Arielle, Owen, Kaya, Jordyn, Lila, Logan, and Damon.