Ranger great Brian Leetch was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame today (along with other first-time-eligible players Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille). And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, classier guy.
Leetch played parts of 17 seasons for the Blueshirts, serving as captain from 1997-2000, and finished his career with Toronto and Boston (we don’t need to get into that now). He was one of the best American-born hockey players ever to play the game, and was also one of the greatest defensemen ever to lace up the skates in the NHL.
His list of awards and accomplishments is long: Of course he’s a Stanley Cup winner, Conn Smythe Trophy winner (first and still only American to win that award), two-time Norris Trophy winner ('92 & '97), Calder Trophy winner (’89), two-time First Team NHL All-Star ('92 & '97), three-time Second Team NHL All-Star and he played in nine All-Star games.
He is one of only five defensemen in NHL history to record over 100 points in a season, and his 23 goals in 1988-89 is a rookie record for defensemen. He played in the Olympics and won the Gold Medal in the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 (while captaining the team).
He was the Rangers’ first-round draft pick in 1986 (ninth overall), and joined the team after playing one season for Boston College. He finished his New York career as the franchise leader in assists (741), second in games played (1,129), ninth in goals (240) and second in points (981). For his career, he netted 247 goals, had 781 assists and 1,028 points. He also tallied 97 points in 95 playoff games. And the Rangers retired his No. 2 on January 24, 2008.
Brian Leetch was mainly known for his offensive skills, but he was an all-around player, who wasn’t afraid to clear the crease or do whatever it took to help his team. He was always humble, and never had a bad word to say about anybody. He’s a no-doubt-about-it Hall-of-Famer, and maybe the greatest Ranger ever, and now he’s in the part of Toronto where he belongs—not with the Leafs but in the Hockey Hall of Fame.