Rangers retire Hall of Fame center Jean Ratelle’s No. 19
NEW YORK — The Rangers honored Hockey Hall of Fame center Jean Ratelle by retiring his No. 19.
A banner with his name and number was raised to the rafters at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night in a ceremony before the Rangers hosted the Detroit Red Wings
Ratelle had 336 goals and 481 assists in 861 games over parts of 16 seasons in New York before he was traded to Boston in November 1975 and finished his career with the Bruins in 1981. With the Rangers, he famously centered a line with Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert — dubbed the GAG Line for “goal a game.”
Ratelle received a rousing ovation 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.
“This is incredible,” the 77-year-old Ratelle said. “It is an honor and privilege to see my sweater raised up to the rafters here at Madison Square Garden.”
Ratelle, inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985, became the ninth player to have his number retired by the Rangers, joining Ed Giacomin (1), Brian Leetch (2), Harry Howell (3), Gilbert (7), Adam Graves (9), Andy Bathgate (9), Mark Messier (11) and Mike Richter (35).
Giacomin, Leetch, Graves, Messier and Richer also attended the ceremony, while Howell and Bathgate were represented by family members. Some of Ratelle’s former teammates also were present, including Brad Park, Rod Seiling, Gilles Villemure, Bob Plager and their coach, 91-year-old Emile Francis.
Ratelle still ranks second on the Rangers’ franchise goals list, third for assists and points (817), and sixth in games played. He and Gilbert are the only players in the top three on the team list for goals, assists and points.
The GAG Line’s big season was in 1971-72 when its members finished third, fourth and fifth in the league in points. Ratelle, who suffered an ankle injury late in that season, and Hadfield became the first two Rangers to reach 100 points. Hadfield was the first Rangers player to score 50 goals that season, with Ratelle’s 109 points setting a franchise record that stood until Jaromir Jagr had 123 in 2005-06.
“I had the best seat in the house,” Francis said. “The GAG Line was the best line in Rangers history, and Jean was one of the greatest players both on and off the ice.”
Ratelle was presented with a specially inscribed commemorative watch, a framed No. 19 game-worn jersey and a custom set of golf clubs with a white bag with the Rangers logo on it.
At the end of the ceremony, Gilbert announced the Rangers would honor Hadfield next season and raise his No. 11 to the rafters. Hadfield then became emotional and the fans gave him a big ovation.
When the Rangers skated out for pregame warm-ups, they were all wearing No. 19 jerseys with Ratelle’s name on the back.