Yesterday I informed the readers that I would be lucky enough to talk to Hockey Hall of Famer and former New York Rangers superstar Rod Gilbert. Rod graciously talked to me today via phone and showed a genuine interest in informing me, as well as all of the readers, of what his hockey career was like as well as what it’s been like for him since then. As anyone who claims to be a Ranger fan should know, Rod Gilbert was the face of the franchise since his rookie season in 1962-1963, was the first player to have his number (7) retired by the organization, and has maintained a strong interested in staying heavily involved with the team since then. To date, Rod Gilbert is the New York Rangers all-time leader in games played (1,065), goals (406), point (1,021), and playoff goals (34). Outside of doing work for the Rangers, Rod also helped develop and is currently marketing a product called The Power Arm,which he talks about in depth in my interview. Of all the articles I have written for this website so far, this one is far and away the most significant and one I suggest all hockey fans take a look at. It’s not often that you get to see what’s on the mind of a Hall of Fame hockey player like Rod Gilbert. Continue reading to see the interview:
Adam: After a lengthy contract dispute with the Rangers you ultimately retired. What made you decide not to try to play anywhere else?
Rod: What happened was… I had lot of controversy with the trade of Jean Ratelle and Brad Park in 1975. That hurt me quite a bit and I didn’t feel.. it was starting new. They traded my two closest friends and I was not prepared to go backwards and rebuild. My goal was always to win the cup in New York. I was very passionate about that. Esposito came here and John Ferguson came [as GM] and he changed everything. He changed the uniform and I was upset about that. I wore it with pride and he changed it to his own liking and none of the fans could relate to that. I was upset with that and I let him know. I led the team in scoring the first year he was here. Then he wanted Esposito to be the leader but I had a bigger following. Walt Tkaczuk… they all looked up to me. He had to get rid of me to do that. I wasn’t happy. When they traded Middleton for Hodge and he went to score in Boston… it was the worst trade in Rangers history I think. I had 2 years on my contract and when they bought me out they offered me a job in management but that didn’t mean much considering they didn’t have me do much. I didn’t want to go to Hartford or Detroit or St. Louis because my goal was always to win the Cup so I wanted to stay here. Eventually I got Ferguson out of management and got the jersey back to the way it should be. So I think I accomplished what I wanted.
Adam: Now that that is all in the past, what is it like working for the organization you have spent your whole career with?
Rod: It’s the only organization my loyalty is with. I could only work for the Rangers in hockey and my relationship with the fans… we formed this wonderful charity called the Garden of Dreams. I do pretty regular stuff with that. I also wanted to take care of the former players. We formed the Rangers Alumni Association and we exposed a lot of the former players and tried to help them. A lot of the older guys aren’t doing so well with money. We raise money for them, events such as golf tournaments and we bring them to MSG and they mingle with the fans… we also get them involved with hockey camps. It’s very rewarding to see that the Rangers family exists, and Glen Sather is more than supportive, having been a former Ranger himself. He understands the need.
Adam: The younger generations of hockey fans, myself included, never got to watch Bobby Orr play, but you got to play against him, including in the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals. What was it like having to face him?
Rod: He is recognized as the best player to ever play the game and more importantly he revolutionized the game by… most years if you were a defenseman you played the defense position and there was like a rule that you couldn’t pass the red line. You dumped it in and let the forward chase it or you passed to them. Bobby Orr revolutionized that. He didn’t dump it in or pass. He skated in himself. He was a better skater than everyone. I always tell this story… I chased him one time on the power play… they were penalty killing. He was behind his net. I chased him and then chased him all the way up the ice and couldn’t catch him, and then he went behind our net and I couldn’t catch him. Then he skated back the other way and we all chased him and couldn’t catch him. Finally he went behind his net again. I said “Oh no, I’m not doing this again, so I waited for [Vic] Hadfield to chase from the other side and went after him and he finally had to give up the puck. He was that fast and that good of a stickhandler, He was a better skater than all of us. That helped a lot.
Adam: Your #7 was the first ever to be retired by the Rangers. What does that mean to you?
Rod: At the time there were no numbers retired. I was extremely honored but.. it took a little while for me to get the feeling for… “wow, I’m really singled out.” Of the former Rangers who played like Andy Bathgate, Harry Howell, all the former Knicks who got championships… none of them had their numbers retired. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how big of an honor it was, to be put in that light. Everybody who goes to Madison Square Garden and looks up and says, “who is that guy. Number 7?”… It was a big honor. I’m glad they brought the others because I was getting lonely. I made sure Bathgate and Howell got their numbers retired. They should have have gone up with me. I had to really sell it to them. And I’ve tried for [Jean] Ratelle and Brad Park. If we had won a championship they would have been retired, but we fell short so they felt it wasn’t necessary.
Adam: What do you think about this year’s Rangers team?
Rod: This year… I feel we’re better than last year. We’ve improved and we have a very combative team. They try hard every game… I think there’s an experience going on there all the time to try figure out who they got and what’s going on. There are so many line combinations. Of course we’re not getting the production from Gaborik we did last year. He scored 42 goals last year, and this year we’re at the same point and we’re doing better even without him scoring. Ryan Callahan and Dubinsky and Girardi and the others got injured and these guys are coming back so it takes a while to get back to form, but I think they’re going to finish the season hard. We need Lundqvist to carry the team on his shoulders again. He’s the key. But guys like Boyle have really stepped up. When there were injuries they were overachievers I think. When you look at Philadelphia last year who went to the Cup Finals… We just need to get in the playoffs and we have a chance. The players and management have worked really hard and so it would be a shame to not make the playoffs. I watch all the games and I feel for them when there’s a letdown but I remain positive. I think the fans are relating to them for their hard work. Marc Staal.. we have a lot of bright light on our team but everything has to come together and we need to get good goaltending. Any team can beat anyone at any time. There’s so much parody. The Devils were bad and now they’re beating everybody. the Islanders are picking it up. Carolina is dangerous with Ward in net. Then you play the Panthers and think you can beat them and then they beat us. It’s crazy how much parody there is in the league.
Adam: What is The Power Arm and how can it help hockey players?
Rod: There’s been a revolution in strength and conditioning. All players are followed closely with a strength and training coach. They follow them to make sure they prevent injuries and make sure they stay strong. My dad invented this device.. you get a broom stick or hockey stick… 10 inches long and then you drop in a weight. Then roll it up and using your wrists… you strengthen your forearms and it helped my shot. A hockey shot is a lot of wrist so if you have strong wrists… I wanted to develop something that isn’t bulky but could help develop strength. So I developed The Power Arm, it kind of looks like bicycle handles. And you can adjust it to difference strengths. It can help people strengthen their stickhandling and their shot. It was important for me to develop this to help kids improve. It really helps the kids but its not only for hockey.. if you’re a golfer.. if you’re a champion athlete then they always refer to great hands.. but great hands are the result of strong wrists and forearms… baseball if you hit the ball, you control it with your wrists… so it’s good for baseball, lacrosse, and excellent for hockey. Every kid that intends to succeed should have the power arm. The Rangers even train with it. Everybody in the locker room likes it.
Adam: How much effort is required for it to be effective? How often do you need to use it?
Rod: You have to have some sort of regimentation. When you wake up in the morning or come back from school… you should use it 3 times a day and change it up.. 20 forward and 20 backwards and then you improve on it and change the tightness and pressure of it…you can feel you’re improving every day and you write it down… how many repetitions you do and how much. it can be 5 minutes at a time.. 10 minutes 3 times a day or just morning and night and you can just put it in your bag.. it’s tiny and compact. You can do it in your spare time, you can do it everywhere… when you travel or are at school. It’s like having a rubber ball to squeeze… but this works better and it develops the arm and wrists. [Former tennis player] John Mcenroe, [former Mets 1st baseman Keith Hernandez for baseball, and golfer Craig Stadler all love it.
Adam: Where should people go to buy The Power Arm?
Rod: We have a website called www.thepowerarm.com. That’s where you go and when you buy it on the website we’ll ship it to you.
I’d like to thank Rod for taking the time to enlighten me, and now all of you, about certain aspects of his career and what he’s done afterwards. From talking to him, it was obvious that he really is passionate about the Rangers even now and nothing would make him happier than watching them win another Stanley Cup. He also is heavily involved with the Garden of Dreams program and overall just maintaining a strong relationship with the fan-base. I also believe he has similar intentions with The Power Arm, as he truly wants to help kids improve their abilities in hockey or any other sport. Make sure to check out the website.