Giacomin, Leetch, Howell, Gilbert, Bathgate, Graves, Messier, and Richter are about to get some company.
The Rangers announced that Jean Ratelle, a 1985 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the second-leading goal scorer in franchise history, will have his number, 19, retired at some point next season. Ratelle, 76, will become the ninth Rangers in team history to receive such an honor.
Ratelle’s career nearly ended before it ever began, as a devastating back injury in 1963 nearly ended his hockey career. However, he went on to have a magnificent 21-year career, 16 of those coming in blue. He became renowned throughout hockey for forming one-third of the famous “GAG line” (standing for “Goal A Game”) along side Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert, whose number 7 is also immortalized in the Madison Square Garden rafters. Ratelle’s best season came in 1972, a year in which he helped lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final. Ratelle’s 46 goals and 63 assists gave him 109 points on the year, a Rangers record that stood until 2006, when Jaromir Jagr broke it.
Currently in the Rangers’ record book, Ratelle ranks 2nd, behind only Gilbert, in goals (336), 3rd in assists (481) and points (817) behind Gilbert and Brian Leetch in both categories, and 4th in plus/minus (168). When he retired in 1981, he ranked 6th all-time in points amongst all of the NHL. Ratelle had spent the final six seasons of his career in Boston, sent over in a 1976 trade.
Ratelle did not play for a Stanley Cup winning team, but he did earn the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, annually awarded to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”, in 1972 and 1976, as well as helping Team Canada to victory in the 1972 Summit Series, helping them defeat the Soviet Union. Recently, Ratelle was named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players, an honor announced during this season’s All-Star Game festivities in Los Angeles.
The news was first reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490