Mr. Ranger, Rod Gilbert dies at 80; Rangers and NHL mourn his loss

NY Rangers great Rod Gilbert passes away.

Mr. Ranger Rod Gilbert
Feb 25, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Former Rangers star Rod Gilbert speaks during a banner raising ceremony for former Ranger star Jean Ratelle before a game between the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Rod Gilbert, a Hockey Hall of Famer who starred at right wing for the New York Rangers for parts of 18 seasons, died at the age of 80.

The Rangers announced Gilbert’s passing Sunday, memorializing the player who earned the nickname “Mr. Ranger” and spent his entire NHL career with the franchise.

Rod Gilbert passes away at age 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,” Madison Square Garden Sports executive chairman James Dolan said in a statement.

“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.”

Gilbert became the first Rangers player to have his jersey number retired. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

From 1960 to 1978, Gilbert appeared in 1,065 career games and scored 1,021 points (406 goals, 615 assists).

Mr. Ranger, Rod Gilbert

rod gilbert
Nov 18, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens honors former players (from left to right) Dave Keon and Raymond Bourque and Denis Savard and Yvan Cournoyer and Frank Mahovlich and Rod Gilbert for their contribution to the six original teams of the National Hockey League during the centennial of the circuit before the game against Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal native overcame a junior hockey injury that could have derailed his career. When he was 19, he broke a vertebra in his back when he slipped on some debris on the ice during a game. He was paralyzed for two months and needed a spinal fusion surgery in order to heal and eventually return to hockey.

An eight-time All-Star, Gilbert also won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1976, the league’s honor for “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

“Everyone in the Rangers organization mourns the loss of a true New York icon,” Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury said. “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.”

The NHL also release statement from Commissioner Gary Bettman mourning his loss. “On a personal level, I will miss Rod’s friendship and love for the game.,” he added. “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.”

–Field Level Media