Yet another hockey death this week, as Gilles Tremblay passed away at the age of 75.
For nine seasons Gilles Tremblay was quietly one of the top players on the Montreal Canadiens. From 1960 to 1969 the small left winger put up decent offensive totals but was best known for concentrating on defensive duties.
After apprenticing with the EPHL's Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, GIlles got his big break during the 1960-61 season when he was called up after 14 games in the minors. Gilles played really well, particularly defensively. He scored 7 goals in 45 games, including his first on November 13, 1960 in New York where he slipped a shot past Gump Worsley. The assists on his first NHL goal were from Bernie Geoffrion and Jean Beliveau - imagine being able to tell your grandchildren that!
The Canadiens told Tremblay that they were pleased with his play in his rookie season but if he wanted to stay in the NHL he would have to develop more of an offensive flare. Gilles went home that summer and prepared for the following season. His preparations obviously paid off as he came back and scored a career high 32 goals and 54 points, all while continuing his strong defensive play. The 32 goals was the 5th highest in the whole league! There was no doubt - Gilles Tremblay planned on sticking around the NHL for years to come.
Tremblay never quite equaled that output again, but he remained a steady though quiet 25 goal man for most of his career. He followed it up with 25 and 22 markers in the next two seasons. A broken leg cut short his 1964-65 season but he rebounded strongly in 1965-66 when he scored 27 goals. 1965-66 was particularly special for Gilles as he added 9 points in 10 playoff games to lead the Habs to the Stanley Cup championship.
Tremblay played until the 1968-69 season when injuries forced him to retire. In all he scored 168 goals and 330 points in 509 NHL games. He added 9 goals and 23 points in 48 playoff contests, earning three Stanley Cup rings.
Tremblay was involved in an ugly incident with the Blackhawks Reggie Fleming on October 24, 1962. The two were quite upset at each other and began to swing sticks at each other. The combatants took approximately 8 baseball style swings at each other though neither player was injured. Both were suspended by league president Clarence Campbell for 3 games and they were fined $850 each.
Forced to retire due to injuries and asthma, Tremblay went onto become a legendary broadcaster on CBC French broadcasts of Le Soiree du Hockey. He was recognized for his excellent work in 2002 when he was honored with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award and his inclusion in the broadcaster's section of the Hockey Hall of Fame.