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Hadfield made himself into 50-goal scorer with Rangers

Forward went from leading NHL in penalty minutes to key member of 'GAG Line'

by Stan Fischler / Special to NHL.com

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler writes a weekly scrapbook for NHL.com. Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday. Once a month, he will let a picture from his vast collection do the talking in his "Picture is Worth 100 Words" feature.

This month, he writes about Vic Hadfield, who went from leading the NHL in penalty minutes to a 50-goal scorer with the New York Rangers.

Vic Hadfield is another NHL example of the power of perseverance.

The New York Rangers claimed Hadfield, a left wing, from the Chicago Blackhawks in the June 1961 NHL Intraleague Draft. For the first six seasons of his NHL career, Hadfield was better known for his toughness than his offensive skills. He even led the NHL in penalty minutes with 151 in 1963-64.

But as the Rangers improved in the late 1960s, so did Hadfield's offensive game. His drive to better his skating and shooting helped him become a 20-goal scorer for the first time in 1967-68, and had 26, 20 and 22 goals in the next three seasons.

Still, despite playing mostly with future Hall of Famers Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert, Hadfield wasn't known as a big-time scorer as he entered the 1971-72 season.

Then everything changed.

The combination of Hadfield's strength and big shot, Ratelle's passing and Gilbert's speed came together to form one of the NHL's most dangerous forward units, the "GAG Line." He went from 22 goals and 44 points in 1970-71 to 50 goals and 106 points the following season, helping the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1950. Hadfield became the first member of the Rangers and the sixth player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season. He was named an NHL Second-Team All-Star.

It was an achievement that seemed impossible a decade earlier, and it's a big reason that his No. 11 hangs from the rafters at Madison Square Garden.

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