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Brian Leetch
Brian Leetch .jpg
Born March 3, 1968 (1968-03-03) (age 51)
Corpus Christi, Texas
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight 185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)
Position Defense
Shoots Left
Played for New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins
National team Flag of the United States.svg United States
NHL Draft 9th overall, 1986
New York Rangers
Playing career 1987–2006
Hall of Fame, 2009

Brian Leetch (born Brian Joseph Leetch on March 3, 1968) is a retired American professional ice hockey defenseman who played in 18 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.

He is generally considered one of the top defensemen in NHL history, being particularly noted for his skating, offense, and playmaking abilities.

In 2008, Brian and his fellow Rangers teammate Mike Richter were inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto the following year (his first year of eligibility).

On January 27, 2017 (in a ceremony during the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles) he was part of the second group of players to be named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players" in history.

Brian has accumulated many individual honors during his 18-year career. He was a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenseman (1992, 1997) and was the first American-born winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP for his performance during the Rangers' run to the 1994 Stanley Cup championship.

Brian is one of only five NHL defensemen to score 100 points in a season with his 102-point campaign in 1991–92. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1989 and his 23 goals that season remain an NHL record for rookie defensemen.

Brian's number 2 was retired by the Rangers on January 24, 2008. During the ceremony, longtime teammate Mark Messier referred to Leetch as the single "Greatest Ranger of All Time."

Playing CareerEdit

Early Playing CareerEdit

Although he was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Brian's family moved from there three months after he was born, eventually settling in Cheshire, Connecticut where he began to hone his hockey skills at a local ice rink managed by his father.

In high school, Brian starred in baseball & hockey: first at Cheshire High School and then at Avon Old Farms.

As a sophomore, his 90-mph fastball helped the Cheshire Rams baseball team to a state championship and, as a senior at Avon Old Farms, he set the school record for strikeouts in a game with 19, however, hockey was the sport in which he most excelled. As a sophomore at Cheshire, he scored 53 goals and 50 assists, earning All-state honors.

In his two seasons with Avon Old Farms, Brian scored 70 goals and 90 assists in 54 games. These numbers were especially remarkable for a defenseman. NHL scouts were starting to take notice and the New York Rangers chose him as their first-round pick (9th overall) in 1986, making him the first player drafted that year who did not play major junior hockey.

Following in the footsteps of his father Jack, Brian enrolled at Boston College in the fall of 1986, and, like his father, would become an All-America defenseman for the Eagles.

Professional Playing CareerEdit

After one season at Boston College, Brian played for the US Olympic team at the 1988 Games in Calgary, making his NHL debut eight days later with the New York Rangers on February 29, 1988 versus the St. Louis Blues. He tallied his first NHL point in the game with an assist on Kelly Kisio's goal. He finished out the 1987-88 season with 14 points in 17 games.

In Brian's first full NHL season (1988-89), he notched 71 points, including a rookie defenseman-record 23 goals, winning the Calder Trophy as well as being selected to the NHL All-Rookie Team.

As the Rangers slowly developed into a championship-caliber team, Brian won increasing respect from fans for his quiet demeanor and entertaining, offensive-minded play. In 1992, he became the fifth defenseman in history, and the only American defenseman, to record 100 points in a season and was awarded the Norris Trophy. Leetch was the last NHL defenseman to record 100 points in a season.

In 1994, Brian again matched his career high of 23 goals in the regular season as the Rangers won the Presidents Trophy. That year, the Rangers' 54-year championship drought ended with a 7-game Stanley Cup victory over the Vancouver Canucks; he became the first non-Canadian to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy & remained the only American to win the award until the Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas in 2011.

Brian is only the second player in league history as well as the only non-Canadian, to win the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year), the Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) and the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) in their career. The only other player to do so was Bobby Orr.

He was the Captain of the 1996 championship team representing the United States of America in the World Cup of Hockey.

Following the Rangers' Cup win in 1994, Leetch remained a fan favorite and team leader, serving as Captain from 1997–2000 after the departure of Mark Messier to the Vancouver Canucks (he would hand back the captaincy to Messier upon his return to the Rangers in 2000).

In 1997, Brian won the Norris Trophy again and the Rangers made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers, but the next years were marked by disappointing team performances that saw the Rangers miss the playoffs every year.

After the especially unsuccessful 2004 campaign, the Rangers traded most of their high-priced veterans; Brian was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs just prior to the trade deadline for prospects Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen, a first-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft which became Kris Chucko (pick was later traded to the Calgary Flames and a second-round pick in 2005, which became Michael Sauer.

Brian was set to play the 2004–05 season with the Maple Leafs, but due to the 2004–05 lockout, the last year of his contract expired and he became a free agent.

He was then signed by the Boston Bruins to a one-year, $4-million contract for the 2005–06 season. During this campaign, Brian would score his 1,000th career point. He would retire following the season's end as the Bruins did not qualify for the post-season.

Post-Playing CareerEdit

During most of the 2006–07 season, Brian received contract offers from nearly every NHL team, but he accepted none of them although he made no formal announcement pertaining to his status as a player. On May 24, 2007, he officially announced his retirement, ending an 18-year career.

On September 18, 2007, Brian was announced one of the four recipients of the 2007 Lester Patrick Trophy.

On January 24, 2008, the New York Rangers retired Leetch's number 2 jersey, joining fellow 1994 Stanley Cup Champion teammates Mark Messier and Mike Richter, as well as Rod Gilbert and Eddie Giacomin in the rafters of Madison Square Garden.

On that night, Brian's friend, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees congratulated Leetch for the honor of having his number retired with a video that ended with Jeter saying, "So congratulations, from one number 2 to another."

Brian also had the honor of announcing during his ceremony that the New York Rangers would retire his friend and former teammate Adam Graves' number during the 2008–09 season, joining Brian and the other greats above the Garden ice.

On October 10, 2008, both Brian and Mike Richter were among four were inducted into the United States Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in Denver. Both of them also played for the U.S. ice hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics, which won the silver medal.

On June 23, 2009, it was announced that Brian would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was honored during the November 6–9 induction weekend alongside Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille.

The induction made it the third year in a row that a member of the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup team has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, following Messier in 2007 and Glenn Anderson in 2008, who was also inducted along with one of the on-ice officials when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, Ray Scapinello.

In August of 2015, Brian became the manager of player safety in the NHL's Department of Player Safety, but left after one season.

Career StatisticsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1983–84Cheshire High SchoolHS28524910124
1984–85Avon Old FarmsHS2630467615
1985–86Avon Old FarmsHS2840448418
1986–87Boston CollegeHE379384710
1987–88New York RangersNHL17212140
1988–89New York RangersNHL682348715043252
1989–90New York RangersNHL7211455626
1990–91New York RangersNHL801672884261340
1991–92New York RangersNHL8022801022613411154
1992–93New York RangersNHL366303626
1993–94New York RangersNHL8423567927231123346
1994–95New York RangersNHL4893241181068148
1995–96New York RangersNHL8215708530111674
1996–97New York RangersNHL82205878401528106
1997–98New York RangersNHL7617335032
1998–99New York RangersNHL8213425542
1999–00New York RangersNHL507192620
2000–01New York RangersNHL8221587934
2001–02New York RangersNHL8210455528
2002–03New York RangersNHL5112183020
2003–04New York RangersNHL5713233624
2003–04Toronto Maple LeafsNHL152131510130886
2004–05 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL season not played due to 2004-05 NHL lockout
2005–06Boston BruinsNHL615273236
NHL totals 1205 247 781 1028 571 95 28 69 97 36

AccoladesEdit

  • All-Hockey East Rookie Team (1986–87)
  • All-Hockey East First Team (1986–87) AHCA East First-Team All-American (1986–87)
  • Hockey East All-Tournament Team (1987)
  • Olympic silver medal (2002)
  • Olympic Tournament All-Star Team (2002)
  • James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top NHL Defenseman) (1992, 1997)
  • NHL First Team All-Star (1992, 1997)
  • NHL Second Team All-Star (1991, 1994, 1996) Stanley Cup champion (1994)
  • Conn Smythe Trophy (NHL Playoffs MVP) (1994)
  • Calder Memorial Trophy (Top NHL Rookie) (1989)
  • NHL All-Rookie Team (1989)
  • Hockey East Player of the Year (1987)
  • Hockey East Rookie of the Year (1987)
  • Hockey East Tournament MVP Award (1987)
  • Won bronze medal at 1986 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. All-Star Selection, Defense
  • 1987 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships 
  • Played in NHL All-Star Game (1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003)
  • Won gold medal at 1996 World Cup of Hockey
  • Was the captain of Team USA while still playing
  • Named #71 on the 100 greatest NHL players, as compiled by The Hockey News (and the second-highest player born and trained in the United States, behind Frank Brimsek)
  • Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009
  • Named the Top Ranger of all time in the book 100 Ranger Greats (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)

New York Rangers Awards

  • MVP: 1989, 1991, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003
  • Players' Player Award: 2001, 2002, 2003
  • Frank Boucher Award: 2001
  • Crumb Bum Award: 1994
  • Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award: 1997
  • Good Guy Award: 2002
  • Ceil Saidel Memorial Award: 2002, 2003
  1. 2 jersey retired by New York Rangers on February 24, 2008

RecordsEdit

NHL RecordsEdit

New York Rangers regular season recordsEdit

  • Most assists, career: 741
  • Most goals by a defenseman, career: 240
  • Most points by a defenseman, career: 981
  • Most assists, single season: 80 (1991–92)
  • Most points by a defenseman, single season: 102 (1991–92)
  • Most power play goals by a defenseman, single season: 17 (1993–94)

New York Rangers playoff recordsEdit

  • Most assists, career: 61
  • Most points, career: 89
  • Most assists, one year: 23, 1993–94
  • Most points, one year: 34, 1993–94
  • Most goals by a defenseman, career: 28
  • Most goals by a defenseman, one year: 11, 1993–94