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Rod Gilbert, New York Rangers right wing January 30, 1967

In the three decades since his appearance on SI's cover, right
wing Rod Gilbert has become the New York Rangers' alltime
leading scorer (406 goals from 1960 to '78), been named to the
Hockey Hall of Fame, played himself on a steamy daytime soap and
been married at the United Nations by the mayor of New York.
Compared to those highlights, being on a magazine cover wouldn't
seem to be a big deal. "Oh, no, I can't forget it," says
Gilbert, now 56 and the director of community relations for the
Rangers and Madison Square Garden. "That cover got me engaged."

A week after Gilbert's mug hit the newsstand, he made an
appearance at a fan dinner attended mostly by men and boys. "In
walked the most stunning woman I'd ever seen," says Gilbert
(pronounced jhil-BEAR). "Long black hair, dark eyes, dressed to
the nines. I went whoa! inside, and I asked her what the heck
she was doing there." The woman, Arunee Leeaphorn, was a Bangkok
native studying at Columbia. She had a copy of SI tucked under
her arm. "I wanted to see if you looked the same in person as
you do in this," she told Gilbert.

They were engaged two years later. "What a wonderful
relationship we had," says Gilbert, though the pair split
amicably in 1970. By then Gilbert, a French-speaking native of
Montreal, had found another love, New York City. He has lived in
Manhattan since 1964 and after retiring stayed visible by
opening an Upper East Side restaurant. In '82 he did two
episodes of One Life to Live in which he had a dalliance with a
TV reporter trying to make her husband jealous. "He was with
Miss Globe, she was with me," says Gilbert. "I figured that was
about right."

In 1989 Gilbert read a newspaper story commending Wayne Gretzky
for running a hockey clinic in Harlem. Gilbert seethed at the
notion that a player from another team--the Great One was with
the Los Angeles Kings at the time--might win over fans in
Rangers territory. He took the clipping to Jack Diller, then
executive vice president of the Garden. "You can let this happen
right under your nose?" asked Gilbert. Responded Diller, "You
want to help me do something about it?" With that Diller hired
Gilbert, who expanded the Rangers' clinic program and today runs
a network of team-sponsored charity events.

Gilbert married Judith Christy, an advertising executive, in
1991 at the Church Center for the U.N. David Dinkins, then New
York's mayor, officiated. "This is such an amazing city," says
Gilbert. "Life here has been full of good times and great

--Kostya Kennedy



"New York is an amazing city. Life here has been full of good
times and great surprises."