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Gilbert: GAG Line to "Play Together Again" Following Hadfield's Honor

Hall of Famer expecting emotional night when former linemate's jersey retired at MSG in December

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Rangers legend Rod Gilbert had to keep a secret from his friend Vic Hadfield for over a month.

But once the curtain was lifted, his former teammate's reaction made it all worth it for No. 7, who broke the news that Hadfield's No. 11 will be retired in a pregame ceremony prior to the Rangers' game against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 2, 2018.

"Glen Sather went through the process to get Vic's number retired, but said not to tell him and surprise him so it doesn't conflict with [Jean Ratelle's] announcement and it'll be a total surprise," Gilbert recalled. "So, I was in on it with Glen."

In classic Gilbert fashion, he did not waste the opportunity to have a little fun with his former linemate, who along with Ratelle comprised the legendary Goal-A-Game line in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"When everyone came in for Jean's night, I was teasing Vic the whole time. I said 'Vic, if you had been a little nicer to Jean and I, or if you could have learned a few words in French, maybe we could have talked it up to get your number up there, too,'" Gilbert said through laughs.

That playful prodding made the announcement on Feb. 25 all the sweeter for both Gilbert and Ratelle.

"I was in charge of doing the announcement and Jean was next to Vic and said he turned white as a sheet and almost fainted," said a joyful Gilbert. "We got him pretty good."

As he said last year when Ratelle's famed No. 19 found its place in the rafters at Madison Square Garden, Gilbert said Hadfield's place among Rangers greats was well-earned and the honor well-deserved.

"His contribution was just as important as Jean and I," Gilbert said of Hadfield. "Once you're a trio - we all depended on each other and that's why we were successful. He deserves to be up there and remembered by whomever felt we played an important role in Rangers history."

As the first to be bestowed the honor of having his number retired by the Rangers, Gilbert has had a front row seat to many special nights at The Garden. The reactions of those who entered into that exclusive fraternity, whose membership will grow to just 10 when Hadfield joins, is as varied as the players who occupy that sacred space.

"I'm anxious just like everyone else," Gilbert said when asked how he thinks Hadfield will handle the big night. "I know the announcement was quite emotional. No one expects it. You don't take it for granted because it's a very special feeling. I'm sure he's going to be very emotional."

While it may be Hadfield's night, the honor will certainly be shared by Gilbert and Ratelle. After all, the GAG line isn't the GAG line without these three legends.

"It's going to be pleasing for all of us," Gilbert said. "We're going to be reunited upstairs. We can play together again from the top. It's a lot safer."

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