On December 2, Vic Hadfield became the tenth New York Ranger to have his jersey immortalized in the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Interestingly enough, Hadfield was the second Ranger to have his jersey number retired after it was already hanging from the ceiling. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that Hadfield’s place in Rangers’ history is in any way insignificant. He was, without a doubt, one of the greatest goal scorers to ever play for the Broadway Blueshirts.
Hadfield scored 262 goals in his 13 years as a Ranger, which places him fourth all-time in franchise goals. He’s also one of just six Rangers to score 100 points in a season and one of only three Rangers with a 50-goal season. Hadfield was frequently the man scoring the goals on New York’s legendary GAG Line.
To get a better idea of just how prolific Hadfield was as a goal scorer, we can take a look at how he compared to his peers.
You might notice in the table above that Hadfield was one of the most dangerous players on the power play of his era with 83 power play goals during his time in New York. Perhaps even more noteworthy are the 1041 penalty minutes Hadfield piled up in that span.
Hadfield was one of the most punishing and physical players of his era. During the 13 years that he wore a Rangers sweater, only six players in the NHL piled up more penalty minutes than Hadfield. He was a man to be feared.
Hadfield didn’t just sit in the box after getting creative and carefree with his stick. According to hockeyfights.com, Hadfield had 45 fights in 841 regular season games and another seven fights in his 61 playoff games with the Rangers. In that span, only four players in the NHL had more major penalties. He’s the only Ranger with at least 200 goals and 1000 penalty minutes.
Hadfield’s hard-nosed style must have been a sight to behold while he played with two players — Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle — who are considered avatars of gentlemanly conduct. When we listen to the stories shared by his former teammates, it’s clear that Hadfield was the kind of guy who didn’t back down. He played hockey the hard way, with his heart on his sleeve and fire in his veins.
On April 8, 1971, Hadfield infamously ripped Bernie Parent’s facemask off during a scrum and tossed it into the stands of Madison Square Garden. The next season he piled up 106 points and 142 penalty minutes playing alongside Ratelle, who had 109 points and four penalty minutes. Truly, he is the measuring stick by that every hard-nosed, skilled Ranger should be measured against.
After the Rangers traded Bob Nevins to the Minnesota North Stars, Hadfield wore the captain’s “C” for three seasons before being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins. To this day, no Rangers captain has scored more goals in a season than the 50 that Hadfield scored in 1971-72.
Considering how much blood and sweat Hadfield gave to the Rangers in his 13 years in New York, it’s hard to understand why we had to wait 44 years after he was traded to see his number raised to the rafters. But really, that doesn’t matter. All that matters now is that he is right where he belongs, forever next to Ratelle and Gilbert.