Gilles Tremblay, Canadiens stalwart, dies at 75
Forward played on 4 Stanley Cup winners in Montreal
Former Montreal forward Gilles Tremblay, who won four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in the 1960s, has died at age 75.
The Canadiens reported Tremblay's death on their official Twitter account.
Tremblay played his entire career with Montreal, scoring 168 goals and adding 162 assists over 509 regular-season games.
It is with great sadness that the Montreal Canadiens have learned this morning the passing of Gilles Tremblay. <a href="http://t.co/ggmQPWWYvL">pic.twitter.com/ggmQPWWYvL</a>—@CanadiensMTL
An exceptional skater known for his contributions on both ends of the ice, injuries and illness forced him to retire at the age of 31.
Tremblay suffered from asthma during his career and took doses of cortisone in his playing days and into his later career as the first former player to act as an analyst on French-language hockey broadcasts on Radio-Canada.
He had also battled intestinal cancer in recent years.
The native of Montmorency, Que., from a family of 14 children made his NHL debut on Nov. 12, 1960 as Montreal faced Detroit at the Forum. The 22-year-old winger started on a line with future Hall of Famers Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion and Jean Beliveau and was tasked with shadowing legendary Red Wings star Gordie Howe.
But Tremblay said in his biography "Gilles Tremblay: 40 an avec le Canadien" (40 Years With The Canadiens) that it was Chicago Blackhawks right-winger Ken Wharram he found most difficult to cover "because he skated just as fast as me."
Red Berenson, the long time coach of the Michigan Wolverines who played for Montreal in the 1960s, said Tremblay was "really serious about playing hard.
"I never saw a player go so fast backchecking. He was the conscience of the line because he would always win the foot race going back if there was a turnover. He didn't get a lot of fanfare and attention, but he did a good job."
Berenson said other players around the NHL tried to play a similar style, but "Gilles was just better at it. He took a lot of pride in it."
In an era when scoring 20 goals in a season was considered a significant achievement, Tremblay reached that plateau five times. He scored a career-high 32 goals, one shy of team leader Claude Provost, in his second season.
National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman today released the following statement regarding the passing of Tremblay: "The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Gilles Tremblay, whose career as a player and broadcaster bridged four glorious decades of Montreal Canadiens hockey.
"A solid two-way wing, Gilles contributed to four Stanley Cup championships in a five-season span from 1965-69. During his 27 years on La Soiree du Hockey, many of them as part of a formidable announcing team with Rene Lecavalier, Gilles' insights brought a national audience the stories of hundreds of games and eight more Canadiens titles. We send heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of someone who brought great dignity and professionalism to his duties on and off the ice."
Tremblay was awarded the Hockey Hall of Fame's Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for broadcasting excellence in 2002.