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Rod Gilbert is an outstanding example of a person who

overcame almost insurmountable odds to become successful

in his chosen profession–one of the top right wingers

in National Hockey League history. Rod Gilbert was a consistent

scorer during an excellent NHL career with the New

York Rangers that lasted 18 seasons and, although he never

played on a Stanley Cup champion team, he was often at his

best in the postseason.

Born on July 1, 1941, in Montreal, Gilbert progressed

through minor league hockey to star as a junior in Guelph,

Ontario. It was during a junior game that he skated over a

piece of debris and suffered a broken back. Gilbert almost

lost his left leg, and it took two operations to correct the

damage.

Gilbert finally made the team outright at training camp in

1962. He was blessed with a hard shot that often dipped, and

he didn’t shy away from battling hard in the corners or

in front of the opposition net. Although he was only 5 foot

9 inches and 175 pounds, Gilbert was an excellent skater and

puck handler, who went on to play almost 16 full seasons in

the NHL—all as a New York Ranger. In that time, he set or

equaled 20 team scoring records and when he retired in 1977,

Gilbert trailed only one other right winger—Gordie Howe—

in total points.

In 1976, Gilbert was awarded the Masterton Trophy,

which is awarded annually to the player “who best exemplifies

the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication

to hockey.” Gilbert was immortalized in New York

hockey history, when his #7 was raised to the Garden’s rafters

on October 14, 1979. He is one of three players in the history

of the New York Rangers to have received that honor. He was

elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

Rod Gilbert

Go the Extra Mile

There are always going to be stumbling blocks along the way.

Don’t let that stop you.

Life is like a big wheel: when you give, you get back much

more in return. You don’t always get it back from the

person you gave to, but the act of giving seems to follow you

in life, and what you get back is far more than you ever expected

or imagined.

As I look back over the course of my life, I attribute my

success as a NHL hockey player and as a person to a number

of things, including the giving and generosity of others. My

family, my brothers, and the countless people I have met have

all fueled me in achieving my goals one way or another.

Source: Printed with permission from Rod Gilbert, New York Rangers

Hockey Hall of Famer.

When I pass along my thoughts and perspectives as to

what motivated me to reach my personal pinnacle of achievement,

the first things I emphasize are love and passion. First,

you have to find something that you love—dancing, music,

hockey—and be passionate about it. Dream about it. Choose

a role model who has “made it.” Go to the source and find out

about that person’s experience.

If it’s music that you love, find the music teacher in your

school. You must ask questions. With the Internet today, research

is so much easier than when I was a kid. Once I knew

what I wanted to do, I asked questions, read countless books

on hockey, and I talked to other hockey players. I asked myself,

“How did the last great hockey player do it?” and then I

found the answers. It helped me to develop my initiative to

succeed. My hero was Boom Boom Geoffrion. Go the extra

mile to get the answers and live your dream.

It’s all gradual: you have to pay your dues through your

attention, and practice. If you truly love something it’s not a

sacrifice or a chore. It wasn’t hard for me to play hockey at

20below. You must go the extra mile to get the answers. You

must live your dream!

Once you’ve done all that, immediate success is not assured.

It’s just the beginning. You must work hard, and you have

to pay your dues. By asking your own questions, you will find

out what you need to do to be great. You will find out all those

“supposed” sacrifices. You can’t get discouraged if you are not

an immediate star, you can’t get discouraged if you not good

at it. If you want it, never give up. Never give up, go for it; go for

it! Tell yourself, “I can do it, I can!” You may not end up a hockey

star, but this quality of perseverance will serve you well in life

and will be pivotal in something else you accomplish.

“Never give up” are the words that have been running

through my head my whole life. With those words in my head,

I succeeded in becoming one of the best players in Canada.

With those words in my head, I made it through a broken back,

being paralyzed for two months, and the possible amputation

of my leg.

When I was 19 and playing junior hockey in Guelph, Ontario,

I unfortunately skated over an ice cream wrapper that

a fan threw on the ice. I was skating at full speed and I tumbled

across the ice and slammed into the boards. The result

of the fall was devastating. They rushed me to the Mayo Clinic

in Minnesota for two months. They took a bone out of my

tibia to fuse my back. In those months at the Mayo clinic, I developed

a severe staff infection. One day, my mother came

into my hospital room crying with the news that they wanted

to amputate my leg. I told my mother with total confidence,

“they’re crazy. I’ll be fine. I’ll never give up. “ There was so

much yet to accomplish.

Along the way there are always going to be obstacles. In

my case, the obstacle was physical injury. There are always

going to be stumbling blocks. Don’t let that stop you. Don’t let

these inevitable barriers slow you down. When I suffered an

injury, any injury, large or small, I thought to myself, “Okay

this is my turn. Injury is part of the game. Okay, I’ll get better.”

I knew I was fortunate and I was honored to be doing

what I was doing.

Another lesson that I have learned is never to let other

kids break your spirit. I started playing hockey very young,

and much of the time I played with older kids. Older kids can

hurt your confidence. Other kids are not going to recognize

your “greatness.” I was lucky enough to have had two older

brothers there to protect me—especially my older brother

John. But even if you don’t have older brothers, stand tough

and understand that this happens to all kids—it’s not just you.

Little by little you gain your confidence. It’s not easy.

There are going to be obstacles, hindrances, barriers, and

injuries all along the way. When I first got to the junior league,

I spoke French and no English. All the instructions were in

English. I didn’t understand anything. My teammates made

fun of me. I quickly learned the English words “same thing.”

If someone asked me what I wanted, I would point to another

player and in English say “same thing.” It didn’t matter. Nothing

mattered. I was doing something that I loved.

I kept going until the New York Rangers summoned me

from the Kitchener-Waterloo Eastern Pro League club during

the Spring of 1962. They wanted me to participate in a playoff

series against Toronto. In my first game, I scored two

goals and an assist, and the following season I was a regular

member of the New York Rangers. In my first season with the

Rangers, I scored 31 points. I was suffering with back pain

from my injury, but I kept trying and going. In the next two

seasons, I scored 64 and 61 points, which were respectable

numbers. Then, after fighting through back pain in the 1966

season, it was decided that I should undergo a second spinal

fusion.

I died in my bed during a visit from my coach Emile

Frances. I was gone for maybe three or four minutes, and I

left my body. It was an amazing experience. I looked down

from above the bed, and I saw them working on me, trying to

restore my heartbeat. My coach was there and when the

nurse said that they thought they lost me, I heard the coach

say to bring me back because I was his best right winger. And

somehow they brought me back.

I played the following season and the Rangers went to the

playoffs. I never gave up and I kept going. In the 1971–1972

season, I reached the pinnacle of my career when I scored

43 goals and tallied 54 assists on my way to the all-NHL First-

Team and an All-Star selection. The G-A-G (Goal-A-Game)

line, which included Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield, and me, finished

third, fourth, and fifth that season in scoring and led the

Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals.

In the 16 full seasons with New York, through hard work

and determination, I broke 20 club scoring records, registered

16 shots on goal in a single game, and when I retired with

406 goals and 1021 points, I was second in scoring among all

right wingers in the history of the game, right behind the

great Gordie Howe. I never gave up. I loved what I was doing.

I kept working and trying.

No two kids are the same. Each one has a determination

and passion for what he or she wants to do. It is a sacrifice

for parents to help their children identify their passions. It’s

an effort to take kids early in the morning to hockey practice,

or any other lesson. Yet it is these things that will help your

children develop and learn life-defining skills. They will learn

to win and to lose; they will learn lessons that will partner

them throughout their lives.