OFFICIAL: Next season #NYR will raise #️⃣1️⃣9️⃣ to the rafters @TheGarden to honor the career of Jean Ratelle! #NYR90 pic.twitter.com/vX6DmFqSJ1
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 18, 2017
No. 19 is going, going, gone. Next season, the New York Rangers will retire the great member of the GAG line when his jersey is raised.In 1951, 10-year-old pals Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle started playing hockey together on a frozen pond in Canada. 65-plus years later the New York Rangers will reunite these Hall of Fame hockey legends when Ratelle’s No. 19 jersey joins Gilbert’s No. 7 in the rafters of Madison Square Garden.
Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert met as school kids and formed an instant chemistry on and off the ice. The lifelong friends signed with the Rangers and played together through juniors. The Rangers developed the talented youngsters and it wasn’t long until they were playing together in the NHL.
Vic Hadfield eventually joined the duo of elite wingers as their center. That trio formed one of the most dangerous forward lines in the history of hockey, the GAG (goal a game) line.
In 2004, Gilbert spoke with hhof.com about his time on the GAG line, “Jean and I needed somebody to go to the front of the net and hold his ground. Emile Francis decided that Vic Hadfield was the guy. Vic had a very short fuse. He was a tough guy; very robust. He established himself well in front and could shake himself loose from the defense. The two of us got him the puck and he scored fifty goals one year. By being in front and yelling for the puck, Vic developed really good scoring skills.”
Ratelle played for the Rangers for 16 seasons tallying 336 of his 491 career goals as a Blueshirt. In his best year, 1971-72, he scored 46 goals in just 63 games. Hadfield scored 50 that year and the GAG line led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup final. There they were ousted by long-time rival Boston.
Several years later Ratelle would be traded to the Bruins, a slight it took him years to get over. Ratelle has gotten over the trade and will now be immortalized by the Ranger team he represented so well in his 16 years with the club.
Jesper Fast is currently wearing #19 and will have to choose a new number when Ratelle’s is retired.