Rod Gilbert, the Hall of Fame winger and top scorer in New York Rangers history, today passed away at the age of 80, just twelve days following the death of fellow 1972 Summit Series teammate Tony Esposito.
A Montréal native, Gilbert first joined the Rangers in 1961, where his speed and agility quickly made him a star and a fan favourite at Madison Square Garden, particularly teamed up with Vic Hadfield and childhood friend Jean Ratelle, forming the powerful “Goal A Game” or “GAG” line. Retiring in 1978, Gilbert would spend his entire 18 year career with the Blueshirts, setting team records for career goals and points that stand to this day, playing in eight All Star Games and winning the Masterton Trophy in 1976. Gilbert was the first Ranger to have his number retired by the team in 1979, and three years later would be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Gilbert would post 406 goals and 1021 points in 1065 career NHL regular season games, with another 34 goals and 67 points in 79 career playoff games.
Playing in the time before pro athletes were entitled to play in IIHF tournaments, Gilbert, like many of his counterparts, debuted internationally at the 1972 Summit Series, dressing for six of eight games for Team Canada. Gilbert would score the go-ahead goal in Game Seven, and dressed for all four Moscow games, helping lead Canada to a thrilling eight-game victory. Gilbert would then be part of Team Canada for their return to the World Championships following a seven-year boycott in 1977, notching two goals and four points in nine games as Canada finished fourth.
Our condolences go out to the Gilbert family, as well as the extended hockey community across Québec and New York, on the death of this legendary hockey figure.