When we are reminded of all-time great Rangers, Rod Gilbert is at the top of the list. A legendary player who spent 18 years in Manhattan, the popular Ranger passed away at 80 on Sunday evening.
An instrumental part of the franchise’s turnaround when he joined the team as a full-time NHL player at 21 in 1962-63, Gilbert became a fixture playing right wing under Emile Francis during the 60’s and 70’s. Best known for being part of the GAG (Goal-A-Game) Line that featured Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield, he scored over 20 goals in 12 seasons. That included 30 or more five times. His best season came in ’71-72 when he set career bests in goals (43), points (97) and plus/minus (50).
It was during that ’71-72 season that the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final where they played the Bruins. However, with Ratelle ineffective after returning from a broken ankle, the Blueshirts lost to the Bruins in six games. Ironically, my father was at the Garden for that game when Bobby Orr skated the Cup. Here are some of his thoughts on the loss of Rod Gilbert.
“A part of my youth is now gone with the passing of Rod Gilbert, a Ranger through and through.
My all time favorite Ranger, Andy Bathgate took the young Gilbert under his wing, taught him, protected him for Rod’s first 3-4 seasons in the league before #9 was traded to Toronto in February 1964.
We will all miss #7’s ever presence at the Garden at practually every home game.”
For 16 seasons, Gilbert played his entire career with the Rangers. He retired in 1978 at 36. Number 7 which hangs from the MSG rafters is synonymous with excellence. In 1065 career games, Gilbert finished with 406 goals, 615 assists and 1021 points. The 406 goals and 1021 points rank first all-time in franchise history. He also scored a club record 298 even strength goals. His 108 power play goals place second behind Camille Henry (116). No Blueshirt has more game-winning goals than Gilbert who finished with 52. His 1065 games rank third in team history trailing only Brian Leetch (1129) and Harry Howell (1160).
For his outstanding career, Gilbert recorded seven hat tricks. Only Rangers legend Bill Cook had more with nine. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 1982.
A recognizable public face at many home games and alumni events, Gilbert was front and center representing the franchise. I had the privilege of meeting him. He couldn’t have been nicer. A great player of class is gone. His legend will live on forever in Rangers hearts.
ROD GILBERT (July 1, 1941 – August 22, 2021)