Rangers honor Vic Hadfield by retiring his No. 11
NEW YORK (AP) — Vic Hadfield joined his former GAG Line teammates as the latest to have his number retired by the New York Rangers.
A banner with his name and No. 11 was raised to the rafters at Madison Square Garden on Sunday in a ceremony before the Rangers hosted the Winnipeg Jets.
Hadfield had 262 goals and 310 assists in 841 games over parts of 13 seasons in New York before he was traded to Pittsburgh in May 1974 and finished his career with the Penguins in 1976. With the Rangers, he was the left wing on a line with Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert — dubbed the GAG Line for “goal a game.”
Hadfield, a Rangers captain from 1971-74, received an ovation from the crowd when he was announced and walked out on the red carpet on the ice, and then again when he was called up to the podium by Gilbert.
“I can’t explain how incredible and amazing it is to stand before you and accept this tribute tonight,” the 78-year-lold Hadfield said. “This is such an honor, a privilege for any player.”
Hadfield became the 10th player to have his number retired by the Rangers, and his No. 11 — also retired for Mark Messier — is the second to be selected for two players. The other is No. 9, retired for Adam Graves and Andy Bathgate. Ed Giacomin (1), Brian Leetch (2), Harry Howell (3), Gilbert (7), Ratelle (19) and Mike Richter (35) have also been honored.
“A special thank you to Rod and Jean,” Hadfield said. “I certainly wouldn’t be able to be here without you two.”
Giacomin, Richter, Messier, Leetch, Graves, Ratelle and Gilbert also attended the ceremony, while Howell and Bathgate were represented by family members. Some of Hadfield’s former teammates were also present, including Ron Greschner, Steve Vickers, Bob Nevin, Bruce MacGregor, Ted Irvine, Bill Fairbarn, Pete Stemkowski,k Walt Tkaczuk, Tim Neilson, Brad Park and 91-year-old former coach Emile Francis.
The GAG Line’s big season was in 1971-72 when they finished third, fourth and fifth in the league in points and Hadfield and Ratelle became the first two Rangers to reach 100 points. Hadfield was the first Rangers player to score 50 goals that season, and Ratelle — who suffered an ankle injury late in the season — set a franchise record with 109 points that stood until Jaromir Jagr had 123 in 2005-06.
“Our line had great chemistry and we made each other better players,” Ratelle said.
Francis added: “I’m so proud all three of their names will be together on the roof.”
Hadfield was presented with a specially inscribed commemorative watch, a standard-sized sideboard with names of his 132 teammates during his tenure with the Rangers, and a five-day cruise with his family.
Current Rangers players sat on the bench during the ceremony, all wearing No. 11 jerseys with Hadfield’s name on the back.
The ceremony for Hadfield was announced on Feb. 28, after Ratelle had his number retired.
“I didn’t have a clue,” Hadfield said before Sunday’s ceremony. “When Rod announced it, it was quite a shock, and emotional.”