The Moose Jaw sports world lost one of its all-time greats on Friday, as it was announced Hockey Hall of Famer and four-time Stanley Cup champion Clark Gillies has died at the age of 67.
To say the legendary power forward left a lasting legacy in the hockey world not only in Moose Jaw but all over North America would be a huge understatement, as tributes to his quality as a player and character as a person continuously flowed in on social media throughout the day Saturday.
“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Clark Gillies, a tower of strength on the ice for dynastic New York Islanders of the early 1980s and a pillar of the Long Island community ever since.” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement.
“The adoration and admiration of his teammates reflected the heart and passion he brought to our game. We said our deepest condolences to his family and his countless friends and fans.”
Gillies grew up in Moose Jaw and spent many a day and night on the outdoor rink near Ross Wells Park, with the rink and playground christened Clark Gillies Recreation Area in his honour a little over a decade ago.
The skills he developed playing the sport in the Friendly City would eventually lead him to the then-Western Canadian Hockey League’s Regina Pats, where it would be safe to say he had a bit of an impact.
Three seasons of leadership culminated in the 1973-74 campaign, where Gillies put up 46 goals and 112 points to lead the Pats to the WCHL title and their most recent Memorial Cup championship.
Naturally, the NHL took notice. Gillies was drafted fourth overall by New York Islanders that summer and the rest is incredible history -- team captain and First All-Star team appearances in the 1977-78 and 78-79 seasons, four straight Stanley Cups from 1978-79 through 1982-83 and a career that is remembered with reverence four decades into the future.
All told, Gillies played 958 games, scoring 319 goals and 697 points.
And when it came time to ensure future generations would know all about his contributions to the game, the Hockey Hall of Fame saw to it that would be the case, calling his name in 2002.
Gillies is also a member of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and was in the first class enshrined in the Moose Jaw and District Sports Hall of Fame.
“The entire Islanders community is devastated by the loss of Clark Gillies," said Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello in a statement. "He epitomized what it means to be a New York Islander. The pride he felt wearing the Islanders sweater on the ice was evident by his willingness to do anything to win. Off the ice, he was just as big of a presence, always taking the time to give back to the local community. The New York Islanders have four Stanley Cups because of the sacrifices he and the members of those dynasty teams made for the franchise. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Gillies family."
As Lamoriello touched on, Gillies’ legacy goes far beyond the rink.
Through the Clark Gillies Foundation, he helped raise millions of dollars to help children who are physically, developmentally and/or financially challenged, with the Clark Gillies Pediatric Unit and Clark Gillies Pediatric Emergency Room in New York’s Huntington Hospital named in his honour.
Speaking to NewsDay.com’s Andrew Gross, Islander legend Bob Nystrom summed up how many felt about Clark.
“The one thing that I need you to just say is that he’s one of the greatest human beings that I’ve ever met.”