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Excitement Growing for Ratelle as Historic Night Approaches

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Jean Ratelle spent 16 years in New York, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and was named one of the NHL's best 100 players of all time.

But no one is immune to nerves, and it's understandable there are some for Ratelle, who will see his No. 19 raised to the iconic ceiling at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 25.

"I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a great evening for me and my family," said Ratelle. "I'm looking forward to having a good time and hopefully I won't be too nervous. 

"I'm trying not to think about it too much," he added with a laugh. "You always think about it, but you try and keep a level head."

There's plenty for Ratelle look forward to that night, but at the top of the list is catching up with former teammates and getting a chance to be in front of Ranger fans once again.

"They were always really good fans," Ratelle said. "They loved the game of hockey and knew the game of hockey. It was great to play in front of them while I was there."

Whenever Rangers fans think of Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield are not far behind. The trio comprised the most successful trio in franchise history, the Goal a Game line, and during the 1971-72 season, it combined for 133 goals and 302 points, the most in team history.

"My time in New York … I played with two great hockey players," Ratelle said of his linemates. "Playing with Rod and Vic for so long is what I remember the most. As a team, we had some great teams. Playing almost a full career with these two guys in New York was fantastic. We played a long time together and I don't know how many lines played together longer than us."

Ratelle and Gilbert's friendship dates back to their early teens, and when Hadfield was added to the group, the chemistry extended beyond the ice rink.

"We got along great together," he said. "I started playing with Rod when I was 12 or 13. He was like a brother to me. Vic came along and we got along great. It becomes a family in that situation."

The accolades are a plenty for Ratelle, who was in the top 10 all time in goals (491), assists (776) and points (1,267) when he retired following the 1980-81 season. But the honor awaiting him at The Garden could be at the top of the list.

"I've received many awards in my career and this is probably the ultimate," he said. "To have your sweater retired with the New York Rangers, it's the icing on the cake."

On Feb. 25, a Rangers legend returns home to Madison Square Garden when Hall of Famer Jean Ratelle has his No. 19 raised to the rafters. Ratelle Night brings together generations of Rangers fans together to celebrate, thank and honor Jean and his contributions to our rich heritage. LEARN MORE »

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