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Gilbert's legendary love for Rangers, New York to endure after his death –



For Mr. Ranger, whose death at age 80 was announced by the New York Rangers on Sunday, his first thunderous brush with Detroit Red Wings icon Gordie Howe forever was magical.

“My second game in the NHL, 1961-62 at the Detroit Olympia,” Gilbert recalled at an NHL Alumni gala a few years ago. “I’d heard the legend of Gordie’s elbows, but I’m not even a rookie. He doesn’t have a beef with me, right?

Rod Gilbert in an early 1960s New York Rangers portrait, and with the team during his 1970s prime.

 “Never saw Gordie, or his elbow. I’m waking up on the ice to ammonia and smelling salts, seeing the lights in the ceiling, and as I’m being helped off, the linesman skates by and almost whispers to me, ‘It was No. 9 …’

“I figure, ‘OK, I’ll pick my spot and get my revenge.’ We played in the League together for nine years, but it just never happened.”

More than four decades later, Gilbert and Howe were at a banquet at the 2004 NHL All-Star Game, at different tables, and Gilbert was regaling fellow diners with the story.

“What I want,” he told his audience, “is to live long enough to visit Gordie in his retirement home, come up behind him in his wheelchair, dump him on the floor, walk away, and have one of the nurses lean down to him and say, ‘It was No. 7 …'” 

New York Rangers famous line of Rod Gilbert (left), Jean Ratelle (center) and Vic Hadfield at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 2, 2018, for Hadfield’s jersey retirement.

Laughs all around until the following morning, when Mr. Hockey saw Mr. Ranger at breakfast and wandered over wearing a look of purpose.

“Did I ever get you, Rod?” he said.

“Gordie, who did you not get? You got everyone,” Gilbert replied.

“Are we OK?”

Gilbert, now squirming a bit: “Sure we are. Why do you ask?”

“I just wonder why you’d want to dump me out of my wheelchair in a nursing home. Do you still intend to get me back?”

Gilbert grinned.

“Not yet,” he replied, two old friends laughing.

A young Rod Gilbert chases Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Al Arbour behind the net at Madison Square Garden in the mid-1960s.

This was one in an encyclopedia of stories that Gilbert had filed away from his remarkable career with the Rangers, the team that for 18 Hall of Fame-bound seasons was his only NHL address.

The only other jersey he wore in major professional hockey — he had a short stint in the minor pros — was that of Canada, for whom he played in the historic eight-game 1972 Summit Series against an all-star team of Russia players.

From his hometown of Montreal, Gilbert would find his way to fame and fortune in New York via the Rangers’ junior system in Guelph, Ontario, he and fellow future New York legend Jean Ratelle developed by coach Emile Francis. There has been no one in team history who better embodied what it was to be a Ranger than Gilbert, no one who loved the franchise quite as much.

It was a triumph that he could lace his skates, much less play 1,065 games and set team records for goals (406) and points (1,065), all of which stand 44 years since his final game, on Nov. 23, 1977.

Rod Gilbert in pursuit of Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bobby Baun during a 1970s game.

Twice Gilbert confounded doctors by returning to play following major back surgeries.

“I’m lucky Gordie didn’t dump me out of my wheelchair,” Gilbert joked.

The first in 1961, during Gilbert’s junior career, required spinal fusion to repair an injury sustained when he stepped on debris thrown onto the ice. The operation was performed only after he’d been in traction for 10 days for what was believed to be a pulled muscle.

The fusion didn’t go according to plan, and an infection in his left leg left him hospitalized for two months. But Gilbert recovered and from 1962-65 he played three consecutive 70-game seasons for the Rangers, scoring 11, 24 and 25 goals.

Rod Gilbert with the New York Rangers in the 1970s, and with Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series.

He re-injured his back in the fall of 1965 while pulling a boat out of the water. A second spinal fusion was done after Gilbert no longer could play, having skated 34 games that 1965-66 season wearing a steel-ribbed back brace.

There were complications from the second surgery too, during which a bone from his pelvis was used to fuse three vertebrae. Infection set in and he nearly died when he lapsed into unconsciousness for several minutes, choking on medication that had lodged in his throat.

Not only did Gilbert return from that, he showed tremendous durability, scoring 25 or more goals in 10 of his next 11 seasons, with a career high of 43 in 1971-72.

In retirement, Gilbert championed myriad worthy causes and waded into the spotlight of New York, his thousand-watt personality a Manhattan beacon. He admitted that it was a bit selfish, the embrace of his city and Rangers fans as important to him as was his ability to raise funds and awareness for charities.

Rod Gilbert camps in front of Toronto goalie Jacques Plante during an early 1970s game.

Indeed, the Rangers were his lifeblood. Gilbert adored his teammates, especially Goal-A-Game (G-A-G) linemates Ratelle and Vic Hadfield. Reached on Sunday night, Hadfield was shattered, unable to speak about his late friend.

Gilbert, whose No. 7 became the first jersey retired by the Rangers in 1979, was bursting with pride when Ratelle’s No. 19 and Hadfield’s No. 11 joined him 10 months apart in 2018. It was on Madison Square Garden ice, during Ratelle’s ceremony, that Gilbert announced that Hadfield’s would join them the following season, the rugged winger reduced to tears.

At every turn, Gilbert promoted the Rangers brand and history as a team ambassador, community relations representative, the locomotive for the Garden of Dreams Foundation and the Rangers’ director of special projects.

The coronavirus pandemic, he said 16 months ago, shoved a stick in the spokes of a free-wheeling man who genuinely loved people.

Rod Gilbert’s charity endeavors involved work with Ronald McDonald House. Here, in 2019, with two children for the 25th Annual Skate With The Greats at The Rink at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

“For a social guy like me, distancing has been pretty tough,” Gilbert said, his mingling with fans reduced to Zoom chats and phone calls with season-ticket holders. “I love to yak and shake hands and hug and tell the fans how much I appreciate them. Not being able to do this is a little depressing, to tell you the truth. I love to socialize with fans. They’re my family, actually.”

A month into the pandemic, Gilbert expressed his awe for the work being done by New York’s front-line workers by saluting them from the 33rd-floor Upper East Side apartment he shared with his wife, Judy.

Every night at 7 p.m., beginning in April 2020 and continuing for some months, he would go out onto his balcony with a wooden stick. And then for a few moments he would bang his Sher-Wood on the metal railing, tapping out his thanks to New York’s health-care professionals and countless others who were working at great personal risk to protect and serve the population.

Gilbert would have hollered his appreciation to accompany the percussion of his stick, but it probably wouldn’t have been heard over Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” that he had blaring in the background.

Rod Gilbert and his wife, Judy, attend the National Meningitis Association’s Give Kids A Shot gala at the New York Athletic Club on April 28, 2014, in New York City.

He had long ago found his place, happiest in the public eye, delighted to dig into his encyclopedia of stories, always finding something for the occasion. The word “no” wasn’t in his vocabulary, and everyone who wanted to bask in his glow knew it.

In Gilbert’s youth he worshipped Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, one of the greatest ambassadors hockey ever has known. It was from that cloth that Gilbert would cut his own fine suits.

“I feel like I’m a bit of a statesman now, a little like Jean was,” Gilbert reflected a few years ago.

“Every morning I open my eyes and say that life is for the living. You’re going to go out there and not get upset or create turmoil. Be peaceful and don’t allow anyone to break that. Be happy with your production and be of service to people.”

Photos: Hockey Hall of Fame / Getty Images

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NBA denies Canadian Andrew Wiggins of religious exemption to skip COVID-19 vaccine –



The NBA has denied Canadian Andrew Wiggins’s request for a vaccination exemption, leaving the Golden State Warriors swingman ineligible to play home games until he meets San Francisco’s vaccination requirement.

The ruling was announced Friday, hours after the New York Knicks said their entire roster is vaccinated, making all their players eligible to play in their home games.

Because of local coronavirus regulations in New York and San Francisco, the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Warriors are required to be vaccinated to play in their home arenas unless exemptions for medical or religious reasons apply.

Wiggins, from Vaughan, Ont., sought an exemption from the league for religious reasons.

“The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’s request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events,” the league said in a statement.

“Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfils the city’s vaccination requirements.”

NBA says unvaccinated players can play

Unvaccinated players are allowed to play this season, though the NBA has said that they will have to be tested daily on practice and travel days, and at least once — possibly more — on game days. Fully vaccinated players will not be subject to daily testing.

However, the Knicks, Nets and Warriors face stricter rules because of their local regulations, which the NBA has told teams do not apply to visiting clubs.

WATCH | ‘Bring It In’ panel discusses vaccine passports’ effect on sports:

Discussing mandatory vaccine passports as fans return to stadiums | Bring It In

24 days ago

With fans returning to stadiums across Canada, host Morgan Campbell discusses the enforcement of mandatory vaccination in stadiums across the country with panellists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin. 7:44

The Knicks are the first of those teams to say they have met the mandate.

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said earlier this week that a couple players wouldn’t yet be eligible, but he was confident everyone would be able to participate by the time the regular season begins on Oct. 19.

Local mandate not yet in effect

Wiggins still has time, as San Francisco’s mandate doesn’t take effect until the middle of next month. Training camps open Tuesday.

The NBA has struck agreements this off-season to have virtually all parties involved in games — referees, coaches, stat-crew workers and anyone else who will be in close proximity to players on or off the court in NBA arenas — vaccinated in order to participate.

The one exception: The players themselves, with the National Basketball Players Association rebuking all efforts from the NBA to mandate that they be vaccinated. About 85 per cent of players were vaccinated at the end of last season. The league-wide figure is believed to have increased since.

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2020 Ryder Cup pairings: U.S. runs it back, Rory McIlroy out for Saturday foursomes – Golf Channel



After his team dug itself a 6-2 hole on Friday at the Ryder Cup, European captain Padraig Harrington had some decisions to make when deciding on his pairings for Saturday morning’s foursomes session.

One pressing question was whether he’d sit Rory McIlroy for the first time in McIlroy’s cup career. McIlroy had played in every session since making his debut in 2010 (26 for 26), but he’d dropped both his team-play matches on Friday at Whistling Straits while failing to reach the 16th hole in either one.

Ultimately, Harrington decided that his visiting side’s best chance at a comeback was to sit McIlroy on Saturday morning.

“We have plenty of options on our team,” Harrington said. “Spoiled for choice in many ways, and yeah … I’m very comfortable again with the team I’ve put out tomorrow. Wait and see in each of those matches whether they can create their own momentum and then bring that to the team.”

McIlroy and Poulter, who lost in foursomes on Friday morning, will both be benched, while Harrington will mix things up slightly elsewhere, splitting Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland, and pairing them with Tyrrell Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger, respectively. Two of Europe’s foursomes pairings are intact: Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Match scoring for the 43rd Ryder Cup

Meanwhile, on the American side, captain Steve Stricker is going back to the well, keeping all four of his previous foursomes teams. All but Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth won on Friday morning, though Thomas helped lead a four-ball rally alongside Patrick Cantlay on Friday afternoon as the U.S. duo tied Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

Cantlay reunites with Xander Schauffele, who is 2-0. Dustin Johnson, also 2-0, reunites with Collin Morikawa.

“We had one other group that we were thinking about putting out, but it went so well this morning that I figured why mess things up and change things up at all,” Stricker said. “We changed the order a little bit is all, but we kept the same pairings.”

The U.S. leads by four points, its largest advantage after Day 1 since 1975. History is on the Americans’ side, too, as just once in five previous instances since 1979 (the year that the Great Britain and Ireland side was expanded to include continental Europe) has a team coughed up a lead of more than three points after the opening day.

Here are the matchups and starting times for Saturday morning’s foursomes session:

8:05 a.m. ET: Koepka/Berger vs. Rahm/Garcia
8:21 a.m.: Johnson/Morikawa vs. Casey/Hatton
8:37 a.m.: Thomas/Spieth vs. Hovland/Wiesberger
8:53 a.m.: Schauffele/Cantlay vs. Westwood/Fitzpatrick

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Lululemon named official Canadian outfitter for next four Olympics | Offside – Daily Hive



Lululemon will be officially heading to the Olympics.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees announced Thursday a partnership with the Canadian clothing brand Lululemon, making it the country’s official outfitter of Team Canada for the next four Olympics.

“As a Canadian and lifelong fan of the Games, I could not be prouder for Lululemon to partner with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee,” said Calvin McDonald, the CEO of Lululemon in a release. “Supporting these incredible athletes as they prepare to compete on the world’s largest sporting stage is a privilege. Through this partnership, all of us at Lululemon are honoured to play our part to inspire, unite and transform the world through sport and share in this excitement alongside all of Canada.”

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A small selection of Lululemon Olympic apparel is available online and in-store already, with more to be revealed next month.

The partnership will start at the Beijing 2022 Games, continuing through 2024 in Paris, 2026 in Milan, and 2028 in Los Angeles.

This replaces the Hudson’s Bay partnership that first began in Torino 2006 and expired after Tokyo 2020.

While it’s Lululemon’s first official Olympic partnership, they actually launched a collection that appeared to be heavily inspired by Vancouver 2010.

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