His death was confirmed by the National Hockey League in a press release mourning Gilbert’s loss and highlighting his impact. The cause of his death was not revealed.
Gilbert, who earned the nickname “Mr. Ranger” while playing his entire 18-season career with the New York Rangers from 1960 to 1978, was the first player ever to have his number retired by the team.
“Everyone in the Rangers organization mourns the loss of a true New York icon,” Rangers President Chris Drury said in the release. “Growing up a young Rangers fan, one of the first names I ever heard about was Rod Gilbert – he was synonymous with Rangers hockey.”
Gilbert’s No. 7 banner has hung in the rafters at Madison Square Garden since 1979.
“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 Corp 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, he added.
The Montreal-born scorer tallied 406 goals and 615 assists in his career, retiring with the second most points by a right winger in NHL history behind the legendary Gordie Howe.
Gilbert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982. The eight-time All-Star still ranks first on the Rangers’ all-time goals and points lists.
“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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a press release. “As a player, he was revered by his teammates, respected by his opponents and absolutely beloved by Rangers’ fans.”