With the recent passing of a hockey legend, New York may never see anything like the legacy of Rod Gilbert again. This past Sunday, August 21, New York and the world of hockey lost one of their greats. Gilbert played for the New York Rangers for a total of 18 seasons. He set career records for the team and was the face of the franchise for nearly two decades.
The Legacy of Rod Gilbert – ‘Mr. Ranger’
If you ever question who beholds the greatest legacy for the New York Rangers, just look at the banners in Madison Square Garden. Gilbert’s number seven was the first number to be retired by the New York Rangers due to his committed efforts to the city and his great accomplishments with the franchise.
Starting and finishing his career with the Rangers, Gilbert was able to engrave his name in New York history. The impressive individual holds the record for the most games played by a forward in a Rangers uniform along with many other records for the franchise. Gilbert holds the number one spot in goals (406), points (1,021), game-winning goals (52), and playoff goals (34) for the New York team. Nothing short of an impressive career, Gilbert also landed second-most assists for the organization with a total of 615 assists.
Although the New York legend never had the opportunity to raise the Stanley Cup, he was an impressive playoff player and led his team to ten playoff runs in his 18-year career. Gilbert was able to get his team to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1971-72 season, the Stanley Cup Sem-Finals in the 1970-71 and 1973-74 seasons, and the quarterfinals in the 1972-73 season. Playing in 79 playoff games, the right-handed shooter established 67 points with 34 goals and 33 assists.
Having such an impact on the NHL, it’s with no surprise that the New Yorker would be recognized for his hard work by the organization. In 1982, Rod Gilbert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
More Than Hockey
Not only did he have an impact on the American city, but the legacy of Rod Gilbert also had a forever-lasting impact on his country. The Montreal-born hockey player would help his country’s team to one of the most infamous moments in sports history – the Summit Series. This eight-game series between Canada and the Soviet Union assisted Canada in establishing its identity as a true hockey country. After going down in the series three games to one, Canada came back to win the series four games to three (one game ended as a draw). Gilbert played in six of the eight games, tallying up a total of four points.
In the totality of his career, the right-winger played in a total of eight All-Star games. The Canadian skater was also awarded two NHL awards and one award from a prestigious honor society. One of the awards is the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an award given to an individual who displayed “a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey” in the NHL for the 1975-76 season. Gilbert won this trophy because he “overcame a serious back injury early during his career”.
While playing in the junior leagues, Gilbert slipped on a piece of trash that was on the ice. After falling, he slid hard into the boards, breaking one of the vertebrates in his spine. Gilbert was temporarily paralyzed but was able to make a full recovery after some fearful surgeries. This occurred in his last of three seasons with the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) in 1960.
With Henrik Lundqvist recently retiring from the NHL, New York fans have seen some troublesome moments this summer. Lundqvist played for the Rangers his whole 15-year career in the NHL and now retires as one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play. It’s hard to watch a city see one of their greatest goalies retire, it’s harder to watch a city lose one of the NHL greats. The hockey world won’t be the same without Rod Gilbert, but his New York legacy will forever.