Rod Gilbert, shown in 2006, is still with the Rangers, leading several projects.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Rod Gilbert played wing on the Rangers’ Goal-a-Game, or GAG, line, with Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield, compiling 406 goals and 1,021 points over 16 seasons, with 34 playoff goals. Gilbert, who wore No. 7 and was the first Ranger to have his number retired, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.
Now 70, he is the Rangers’ director of special projects and devotes much of his time to charitable causes. Gilbert is on an advisory board for Ed Randall’s Fans for the Cure, which is dedicated to prostate cancer awareness and education. He also developed the Power Arm, a training device for wrists and forearms designed for players of all ages in hockey and other sports
Q .How do you spend your time?
A. With my job with the Rangers, most of it involves community relations and various fund-raisers and events for the Garden of Dreams Foundation. I also started Skate with the Greats 18 years ago for Ronald McDonald House. I’m active with Doodle for Hunger for the St. Francis Food Pantries, and the Lou Gehrig A.L.S. Association. And I have my own golf outing, the Rod Gilbert Classic for the Diabetes Research Institute. I also work with the Rangers alumni, part of the N.H.L. Alumni Association, which also includes helping former players in need.
Q. Do you stay in touch with your GAG linemates?
A. Yes. I’m still very close with them. I talk to John and Vic all the time.
Q. How would the GAG line do today?
A. We’d be all right. We were a very high-powered line. We’d be as fast as these kids today. And Vic was a goal scorer. He was rugged. As long as we would have the same type of training that players have today. They all work out all 12 months. They’re always in shape. And you should see the sticks they have. They use $400 to $500 sticks. We had a piece of wood in our hands.
Q. What do you think about the popularity of blocking shots?
A. When I played, the philosophy was to get out of the way so the goalie can see it. If they just block the lane, that’s the right way to do it. If you let the puck go through the first guy and you don’t block it, there’s somebody in front of the net that might tip the puck. The shots are so hard that there is going to be a rebound. And most goals are scored on rebounds. So it’s very difficult to cover everyone in front of the net.
Q. Do you think the N.H.L. has done enough to prevent head injuries?
A. When I played, we played without a helmet, and it seems like there was a lot more respect among the players. Now there’s so much money that the role players go out there, and they have to be rugged, and the equipment is much harder. It’s much more protective and its lighter, but also it’s very hard. Your elbow pads are like steel. When you hit somebody with your shoulder on the head, it’s very hard and a much bigger blow than when I played. Our pads were fiber and they were soft.
Q. What is your favorite memory?
A. Scoring my first two goals in the first period in the playoffs in 1962 against Johnny Bower and the Maple Leafs.
Rod Gilbert was a consistent scorer during an excellent NHL career with the New York Rangers that lasted 18 seasons. He blossomed as the right winger on the famous G-A-G Line (Goal-A-Game) with Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield, and although he never played on a Cup champion, he was often at his best in the post-season.
An amateur scoring star with the OHA's Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters, Gilbert was part of a Memorial Cup triumph in 1959-60. In 1960-61, when the team was renamed the Royals, Gilbert led the OHA with 54 goals and 103 points. He came close to winning consecutive scoring titles but lost the scoring crown to Chico Maki on the last day of the 1959-60 schedule. Gilbert had just received word that he was an emergency call-up to the Rangers when disaster struck. In the last junior game of the year, he skated over some debris thrown on the ice that caused him to fall awkwardly into the boards. The impact resulted in a broken fifth vertebra in his back. To repair the damage, doctors removed bone from his left leg and used it to bind the fourth, fifth and sixth vertebrae together.
After recovering from his injury, Gilbert gained some professional seasoning with the Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers of the EPHL. On November 27, 1960, he made the most of a one-game call-up to the big leagues by assisting on Dean Prentice's third-period goal that gave New York a 3-3 tie with Chicago. Following an injury to Ken Schinkel, Gilbert was an emergency recall during the 1962 semifinal series against Toronto. He didn't look out of place and contributed five points in the four games he played with linemates Dave Balon and Johnny Wilson. Read More....