Brian Joseph Leetch (born March 3, 1968) is an American former professional ice hockey defenseman who played 18 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins. He has been called one of the top defensemen in NHL history.
|Hockey Hall of Fame, 2009|
March 3, 1968|
Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S.
|Height||6 ft 0 in (183 cm)|
|Weight||185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)|
New York Rangers|
Toronto Maple Leafs
|National team||United States|
9th overall, 1986|
New York Rangers
Leetch 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. Leetch 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 Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1989 and his 23 goals that season remain an NHL record for rookie defensemen. Leetch'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."
Leetch was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but was raised in Cheshire, Connecticut, where his family moved when he was three months old. He first learned to play hockey at a local ice rink managed by his father, Jack. In high school, he starred in baseball and hockey, first at Cheshire High School, and then at Avon Old Farms. As a sophomore, Leetch's 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. Hockey, however, 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 two seasons with Avon Old Farms, Leetch 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 Leetch 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.
After one season at Boston College, he 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 St. Louis. Leetch 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 his first full NHL season (1988-89), Leetch notched 71 points, including a rookie defenseman-record 23 goals, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as well as being selected to the NHL All-Rookie Team.
As the Rangers slowly developed into a championship-caliber team, Leetch 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. On March 21, 1993, Leetch suffered a broken ankle after slipping on black ice after stepping out of a cab . The injury caused Leetch to miss the rest of the season, prompting a Rangers slump that caused them to miss the playoffs . In 1994 he 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 seven-game Stanley Cup Finals victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Leetch became the first non-Canadian to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, and remained the only American to do so until Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins in 2011. Leetch was the second player in NHL history (after Bobby Orr) to win the Calder Trophy, the Norris Trophy, and the Conn Smythe Trophy in his career. No other player has won all three awards since.
Leetch 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 return the captaincy to Messier upon Messier's return to the Rangers in 2000).
In 1997, he again won the Norris Trophy and the Rangers made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers. The next years, however, were marked by disappointing team performances that saw the Rangers miss the playoffs every year.
After the RangersEdit
In 1998, Leetch was ranked 71st on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.
After the especially unsuccessful 2004 campaign, the Rangers traded most of their high-priced veterans; Leetch 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 draft, which became Kris Chucko (pick was later traded to the Calgary Flames), and a second-round pick in 2005, which became Michael Sauer.
Leetch was set to play the 2004–05 season with the Maple Leafs, however, due to the 2004–05 lockout, the last year of his contract expired, and he became a free agent. Leetch signed a one-year, $4-million contract with the Boston Bruins before the 2005–06 season. Although the Bruins failed to make the postseason, Leetch scored his 1,000th career point as a member of the team.
Throughout the 2006–07 season, Leetch received contract offers from nearly every NHL team, but accepted none. On May 24, 2007, Leetch officially announced his retirement, bringing his 18-year NHL career to an end.
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, his 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." Leetch 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 Leetch and Richter were among four were inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in Denver. Both of them also played for the silver medal-winning U.S. ice hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
On June 23, 2009, it was announced that Leetch 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 2015 Leetch became manager of player safety in the NHL's Department of Player Safety, leaving after one season.
Regular season and playoffsEdit
|1983–84||Cheshire High School||HS||28||52||49||101||24||—||—||—||—||—|
|1984–85||Avon Old Farms||HS||26||30||46||76||15||—||—||—||—||—|
|1985–86||Avon Old Farms||HS||28||40||44||84||18||—||—||—||—||—|
|1987–88||New York Rangers||NHL||17||2||12||14||0||—||—||—||—||—|
|1988–89||New York Rangers||NHL||68||23||48||71||50||4||3||2||5||2|
|1989–90||New York Rangers||NHL||72||11||45||56||26||—||—||—||—||—|
|1990–91||New York Rangers||NHL||80||16||72||88||42||6||1||3||4||0|
|1991–92||New York Rangers||NHL||80||22||80||102||26||13||4||11||15||4|
|1992–93||New York Rangers||NHL||36||6||30||36||26||—||—||—||—||—|
|1993–94||New York Rangers||NHL||84||23||56||79||27||23||11||23||34||6|
|1994–95||New York Rangers||NHL||48||9||32||41||18||10||6||8||14||8|
|1995–96||New York Rangers||NHL||82||15||70||85||30||11||1||6||7||4|
|1996–97||New York Rangers||NHL||82||20||58||78||40||15||2||8||10||6|
|1997–98||New York Rangers||NHL||76||17||33||50||32||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998–99||New York Rangers||NHL||82||13||42||55||42||—||—||—||—||—|
|1999–2000||New York Rangers||NHL||50||7||19||26||20||—||—||—||—||—|
|2000–01||New York Rangers||NHL||82||21||58||79||34||—||—||—||—||—|
|2001–02||New York Rangers||NHL||82||10||45||55||28||—||—||—||—||—|
|2002–03||New York Rangers||NHL||51||12||18||30||20||—||—||—||—||—|
|2003–04||New York Rangers||NHL||57||13||23||36||24||—||—||—||—||—|
|2003–04||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||15||2||13||15||10||13||0||8||8||6|
Awards and achievementsEdit
|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)
- First American-born Conn Smythe Trophy award winner (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
- NHL All-Star Game selection (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 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, was 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 – 2009
- In the 2009 book 100 Ranger Greats, the authors ranked Leetch the Top Ranger of All Time of the 901 New York Rangers who had played during the team's first 82 seasons.
New York Rangers awardsEdit
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
- "100 Greatest NHL Players". NHL.com. January 27, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- 1984 Connecticut All-State Ice Hockey
- Kay, Jason. "The Top 100 NHL players of all-time, throwback style | The Hockey News". The Hockey News. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
- NHL.com, Leetch: Remember me as a Ranger[permanent dead link]
- TSN.ca, Leetch officially retires from NHL Archived 2008-03-31 at the Wayback Machine
- NHL.com, Leetch, Granato, Fischler and Halligan selected as recipients of 2007 Lester Patrick Award[permanent dead link]
- The Canadian Press (November 7, 2007). "LEETCH, CAMMI GRANATO AMONG 4 WINNERS OF LESTER PATRICK AWARD". thehockeynews.com. New York. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
- Rangers raise Leetch's No. 2 to rafters of Madison Square Garden[permanent dead link]
- No. 2 Goes to The Garden Rafters; No. 9 Next Archived January 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Eichel, Matt. "US Hockey Hall Of Fame Inducts Richter, Leetch, and Hull". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
- "The new Hall of Famers". NHL.com. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
- "Hockey Hall of Fame Announces 2009 Inductees". Legends of Hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame. June 23, 2009. Archived from the original on July 6, 2010. Retrieved June 23, 2009.
- "Leetch, Burke join NHL Department of Player Safety". NHL.com. August 22, 2013. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
- "Hockey East All-Rookie Teams". College Hockey Historical Archives. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- "Hockey East All-Teams". College Hockey Historical Archives. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- "Men's Ice Hockey Award Winners" (PDF). NCAA.org. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "2013-14 Hockey East Media Guide". Hockey East. Retrieved 2014-05-19.
- Collins gem Hockey Facts and Stats 2009–10, p.519, Andrew Podnieks, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, Toronto, Canada, ISBN 978-1-55468-621-6
- Cohen, Russ; Halligan, John; Raider, Adam (2009). 100 Ranger Greats: Superstars, Unsung Heroes and Colorful Characters. John Wiley & Sons. p. 228. ISBN 978-0470736197. Retrieved February 3, 2020.