NHL News: Statement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the Passing of “Mr. Ranger” Rod Gilbert

Rod Gilbert with the New York Rangers in 1960 Topps Rookie Card. By TGC-Topps Gum Cards, Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org

NEW YORK (Aug. 22, 2021) – National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman today released the following statement on the passing of Hockey Hall of Famer Rod 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 Commissioner 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.”


Rodrigue Gabriel Gilbert (July 1, 1941 – August 19, 2021) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward who played his entire career for the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL). Known as “Mr. Ranger“, he played right wing on the GAG line (Goal-A-Game line) with Vic Hadfield and Jean Ratelle. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, and was the first player in Rangers history to have his number retired. After his playing career, he became president of the Rangers’ alumni association.

Playing career

After finishing his junior career with the Guelph Royals, Gilbert joined the Rangers near the end of the 1960–61 NHL season. He soon became popular with the Rangers’ fans, and he rose in prominence as an NHL star. However, it was not without pain. In 1965–66, his career was nearly derailed when he went through a second spinal fusion operation.[7] This surgery was performed by Dr. Kazuo Yanagisawa. Gilbert was out of action for half a season, but he bounced back in 1966–67 and scored 28 goals. On February 24, 1968, he scored four goals in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. The Ratelle-Hadfield-Gilbert line, called the GAG line, proved formidable for years. He played with Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. He won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1976 for his perseverance over his back troubles.

At the beginning of the 1977–78 NHL season, Gilbert and Rangers’ General Manager John Ferguson got into a contract dispute. He would retire after the season, his nineteenth in the NHL. His number 7 was retired by the Rangers on October 14, 1979, the first number to be retired by the team.


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