NEW YORK -- Vic Hadfield became the 10th player in New York Rangers history to have his number retired by the team when his No. 11 was raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Hadfield was reunited with Jean Ratelle (No. 19) and Rod Gilbert (No. 7), his legendary "GAG Line" partners, with the hoisting of his number to the ceiling of the building referred to as "The World's Most Famous Arena."
Hadfield, 78, played 841 games during 13 seasons with the Rangers from 1961-74, and had 572 points (262 goals, 310 assists) with 1,041 penalty minutes. The team captain from 1971-74, the last three of his seasons in New York, he was the first Rangers player to score 50 goals in a season when he had 106 points (50 goals, 56 assists) and 142 penalty minutes in 1971-72. He remains the only Rangers player with at least 200 goals and 1,000 penalty minutes.
Hadfield was joined on the ice by seven of the nine Rangers who had previously been immortalized with jersey retirement: Ed Giacomin (No. 1), Mike Richter (No. 35), Mark Messier (No. 11), Brian Leetch (No. 2), Adam Graves (No. 9), Gilbert and Ratelle. Unable to attend was Harry Howell (No. 3); remembered was late Rangers captain Andy Bathgate (No. 9). Also on hand was former Rangers coach and general manager Emile (The Cat) Francis, 92, who traveled from his home in Florida for the event.
Ten more Rangers greats were welcomed to center ice by veteran broadcaster Sam Rosen for a 35-minute ceremony that preceded the Rangers' game against the Winnipeg Jets. In order: Ron Greschner, Steve Vickers, Bob Nevin, Bruce MacGregor, Ted Irvine, Bill Fairbairn, Pete Stemkowski, Walt Tkaczuk, Jim Neilson and Brad Park.
Hadfield was invited to the microphone by Gilbert, who had followed Ratelle and Francis with introductions that celebrated and teased the left wing as a power forward and rugged presence with a great hunger on the ice and in the dining room.
He was given a watch with the inscription "The Ultimate Teammate, A Legendary Ranger," as well as a length of rink board bearing the names of all 132 teammates he had in New York.
Hadfield has been emotional about this honor since it was announced by Gilbert this past February, during Ratelle's jersey retirement, that No. 11 was the next to go up at the Garden.
His legendary sense of humor was in high gear when he said that a number of friends from Canada were in for the ceremony, and he wasn't quite sure how they got across the border.
Hadfield spoke Sunday of "being humbled by opportunities" that came his way in hockey, and of the night being both an honor and a privilege. He thanked the Rangers organization, their fans, Francis for his guidance, spirit and will to win, and the unshakable bond he has with his linemates whom he said he had trouble keeping up with, "but we got it done."
"I certainly did not do this on my own; it was a team effort," Hadfield said. "To be here next to my 'GAG Line' mates Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle, and now to join them above the ice forever, that is truly the greatest feeling in the world."
He also said the Rangers family was thinking for former goalie Gilles Villemure, who is battling illness.
Hadfield choked up when he spoke of his wife, Myrna, who was unable to attend. He finally was joined in the deep slot, where he did much of his offensive damage as a player, by children and grandchildren for his banner raising, No. 11 going up between No. 7 and No. 19.
Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" serenaded Hadfield and his family off the ice, along with those gathered to celebrate him, many retiring to a Garden suite to watch the game and share a lifetime of stories.