The GAG line, which as an acronym for Goal-A-Game, was a famous ice hockey line for the New York Rangers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as these linemates averaged over 1 goal a game while playing together. It consisted of Jean Ratelle at center, Rod Gilbert on right wing and Vic Hadfield (also the Rangers team captain) on the left side.
In the 1971–72 NHL season, Ratelle, Hadfield, and Gilbert finished third, fourth, and fifth in league scoring, respectively. Ratelle had been leading the Boston Bruins' Phil Esposito in the scoring race, until Ratelle broke his ankle and was sidelined for a month. In the playoffs, they defeated the defending champions Montreal Canadiens, and last year's finalists Chicago Blackhawks, to reach the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Boston Bruins.
The trio also started the Summit Series, but Hadfield failed to register a point in his 2 games, and he walked out on Team Canada when the series shifted to Moscow. Three other Canadian players also left the team as well, and the Canadian press at the time considered them "deserters". Hadfield blamed series promoter Alan Eagleson for not holding a press conference to come to their defense. Otherwise, there was no lasting animosity about the decision to leave, as Hadfield and the others had the full support and respect of the coaches and teammates, and the four are welcomed members at alumni events. Hadfield's LW position was filled by Dennis Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The following season Jean Ratelle was traded along with defenseman Brad Park and Joe Zanussi to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Carol Vadnais and Phil Esposito. At the time, this was considered the biggest blockbuster trade in NHL history.
Ratelle finished his career as a Bruin, winning his second Lady Byng trophy and reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 1977 and 1978.
Gilbert remained with the Rangers for the rest of his career but his last two seasons for Gilbert. Throughout his career, he had been wearing the number '7', but so had Phil Esposito. As a result, a bitter disagreement ensued as to who would retain the number '7'. Gilbert was the winner of the argument, but the two remained in a discord that created many unpleasant moments, on and off the ice. Gilbert's number '7' was subsequently retired by the Rangers.
Hadfield finished his career with the Penguins where he had two more 30 goal seasons.
Presently, Rod Gilbert writes a weekly column for a New York publication and resides in the Hamptons' quaint village of Sag Harbor.
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