Former Montreal forward Gilles Tremblay, who won four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in the 1960s, has died. He was 75.
An exceptional skater known for his contributions on both ends of the ice, Tremblay helped Montreal win four Cups between 1965 and 1969 before injuries and illness forced him to retire.
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.
Tremblay played his entire career with Montreal, scoring 168 goals and adding 162 assists over 509 regular-season games.
Rejean Houle, who joined the Canadiens in 1969 just as Tremblay was about to leave, called the stocky winger an "offensive, defensive player.
"When you play with Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer, you need to have skill offensively, but he was the one who was always coming back."
Houle, who got to play only 10 games with Tremblay, remembered him as a popular teammate with a gift for telling funny stories.
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 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."
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.
Various injuries and acute asthma forced Tremblay to retire after the 1968-69 season, when he was only 31.
Tremblay remained close to the game he loved, launching a successful career as a colour analyst for the French television broadcasts of Canadiens games on Radio-Canada.
"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," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "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."
He was given the Hockey Hall of Fame's Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for broadcasting excellence in 2002.
"I took a lot of pride in that and I opened the door for many others," Tremblay said.