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Jean Ratelle's No. 19 to be retired by Rangers

Hall of Fame center among NHL's 100 Greatest Players @NHLdotcom

The New York Rangers will retire the No. 19 worn by Hockey Hall of Fame center Jean Ratelle next season, they confirmed Saturday.

Ratelle, 76, was selected as one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian and wore his No. 19 Rangers sweater when he was introduced at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles.

The decision to retire Ratelle's number was first reported by the New York Post.

"To have your sweater retired is the greatest honor a player can receive. You can't ask for more than that," Ratelle told the Post. "I'm really looking forward to being back at the Garden. My family will be with me. I'm going to enjoy it."

Ratelle will be the ninth Rangers player to have his number retired. That group includes longtime linemate and boyhood friend Rod Gilbert. The third member of the "GAG Line," Vic Hadfield, also is expected to attend, the Post reported.

The Rangers have never taken No. 19 out of circulation. It has been worn by forward Jesper Fast since 2015-16.

Video: Jean Ratelle finished career sixth all-time in points

Ratelle made his debut with the Rangers as a 20-year-old on March 4, 1961, and had a goal and an assist in his first NHL game. His best season came in 1971-72, when he scored 43 goals and set a Rangers record with 109 points in 63 games before sustaining a broken ankle when he was hit by a shot from teammate Dale Rolfe on March 1, 1972. Ratelle returned for the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins but was hampered by the injury and managed one point in the six-game loss.

The Rangers traded Ratelle and defenseman Brad Park to the Bruins for center Phil Esposito and defenseman Carol Vadnais on Nov. 7, 1975. Ratelle had 450 points (155 goals, 295 assists) in 419 games with Boston; with the Rangers, he's second in goals (336), third in points (817) and assists (481), and sixth in games played (862).

Ratelle played in the Stanley Cup Final three times, with New York against Boston in 1972 and with the Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens in 1977 and 1978. He lost each time.

"Of course that's the biggest disappointment of my career," Ratelle said. "That's what you play for every year. I thought we were good enough in New York, but we just couldn't beat the Bruins or Canadiens."

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