Rod Gilbert, the New York Rangers all-time leading scorer has died at 80, the team announced on Sunday night. Gilbert donned the blue sweater in the Big Apple for 18 seasons, leading the Rangers to one of only two Stanley Cup Final appearances for the franchise between their championships in 1940 and 1994.
Rangers owner James Dolan released a statement on behalf of the Rangers organization.
“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. 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.”
In addition to the statement released by the Rangers, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also released a statement on behalf of the league. “Rod Gilbert’s impact on the National Hockey League and the New York Rangers over the past 62 years was profound – both on and off the ice,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
“As a player, he was revered by his teammates, respected by his opponents and absolutely beloved by Rangers’ fans. Throughout his 18 NHL seasons – all with the Rangers, he was among the greatest offensive players of his era and truly entertained fans across the League on a nightly basis. His contributions to the game were appropriately recognized with hockey’s highest individual honor – induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.”
A native of Montreal, Gilbert played his entire 18-year career for the Rangers, becoming the all-time franchise leader in goals scored (406) and points (1,021). Starring on the Rangers’ famous GAG (Goal-A-Game) Line, Gilbert was an eight-time NHL All-Star that earned First All-Star Team recognition in 1971-72. Gilbert established or matched 20 team records in all during his Rangers career, and by the end of his career was second in NHL history to only Gordie Howe in points scored by a right-winger.
In New York, Gilbert was a special figure both during his playing career and well after it. After his retirement following the 1977-78 season, Gilbert became the first Ranger ever to have his number retired, with the franchise discontinuing use of the No. 7 in his honor. Gilbert would go on to work for the Rangers for 32 seasons in a variety of roles, most notably as Director of Special Projects and Community Relations Representative.
While Gilbert’s career was forever immortalized when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, he was also very much admired thanks to both the determination he showed during his playing career and his generosity off the ice. Gilbert won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1976, the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1991, and in 2007 was named Man of the Year by the National Hockey League Alumni Association. In 2010, Gilbert was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his efforts as a humanitarian.