It's with great sadness we've learned of the passing of Ross Gillespie, coach of the 1976 Olympic gold medal winning New Zealand men's hockey team. He was 87.

Tack, as he's been affectionately known in hockey circles since 1958, played for New Zealand at two Olympics (1960 and 1964), and was integral to the backbone of the Canterbury side who dominated domestic hockey in the 1950s and '60s.

In 1971, Ross co-coached the NZ men winning silver at a world six-a-side tournament, then had the head job to himself at the 1972 Munich Olympics (where he was also 17th man on the team sheet).

He was determined to keep the core of that team together for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and he got the mix right. He built the team's fitness and confidence, and made them laugh.

"He was a bit like Graham Henry," Arthur Parkin said in Striking Gold. "At first meeting you think, he's a grumpy bastard, when actually he's very personable and very witty." And very successful - the only New Zealand hockey coach to win an Olympic medal. 

Throughout his coaching tenure, Ross did the job voluntarily - taking time away from his wife, Barbara, and their children, and the sawmill business he ran with his brother. 

Our thoughts are with the Gillespie family. Tack was a true gentleman and a Kiwi sporting legend.

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