8/23/21 | 5:28 PM: The Rangers also released statements, below, from Adam Graves and Glen Sather.
8/22/21 | 9 PM: The NHL has released a statement, below, on the passing of Gilbert.
8:05 PM: The Rangers have announced that Rod Gilbert has passed away at the age of 80.
From the Rangers:
“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.
The NHL’s Statement on the passing of Gilbert:
“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. Rod’s impact on our game was equaled, if not surpassed, in his retirement. For 32 years, he was one of the greatest ambassadors that our League has seen in its 104-year history. The time that he devoted to countless charitable causes and the passion that he brought to every interaction with hockey fans at not only Madison Square Garden but across the NHL was both incredible and inspiring.
“On a personal level, I will miss Rod’s friendship and love for the game. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Judy and his children Chantal, Justin, Holly and Brooke and his seven grandchildren. The game has lost a true friend.”
“I am devastated to learn of the passing of my dear friend, Rod Gilbert. In all of the years I knew Rod, first as a teammate and then as an executive, the affection he had for his adopted city never wavered. He loved to call New York home, and the people of New York loved to call him theirs. He always cared about how he could help people, and that transcended all of his on-ice achievements. I am proud and fortunate, like so many others, to have called Rod a friend. His legacy will live on through all of the people he inspired.”
“There are no words that can adequately express how much Rod Gilbert has meant to me, the entire New York Rangers organization, the people of New York, and the game of hockey. When I first arrived in New York in 1991, Rod was one of the first people I met. His passion for the Rangers was evident immediately, and he instantly welcomed me into the Rangers family. His extensive work in the community with countless organizations was always a source of inspiration for me. He provided everyone with the example of what it means to be a Ranger. It was a privilege to know Rod. He will be dearly missed.”