Mention the term “fan fave” around any Rangers’ fan and chances are the name Brian Leetch will come to their mind immediately.
Leetch wasn’t just an outstanding offensive defenseman; he was a gentleman off the ice who tirelessly gave back to the community what they gave to him— especially the Ronald McDonald house.
Leetch started his career with the Rangers as a kid from Connecticut and scored 14 points in 17 games.
The second season was when he took off and scored 71 points in 68 games in his first full season, winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Leetch would be a mainstay on the blue line for the Rangers for seventeen seasons, and became the first American player to win the Conn Smythe trophy when the Rangers won the Cup in 1994.
Leetch was instrumental during the run and scored 11 goals along with 23 assists for 34 points in 23 playoff games in 1994, including scoring the second Ranger goal in a game seven victory over the Canucks at Madison Square Garden.
Even as the years went on and the team struggled, Leetch continued to play hard every night.
Then in 2004, his Ranger career came to an end when Glen Sather, wanting a youth movement and a complete franchise cleansing traded him to the Maple Leafs.
It was a shocker for the Downstate area.
Ask any Ranger fan what one of the saddest days of their life was and they’ll probably answer with, “The day Brian Leetch was traded.”
When Leetch made his Garden return in 2006 as a member of the Bruins, the fans cheered him every time he touched the puck and gave him a standing ovation when the game was over.
He retired after that season and a year later had his No. 2 retired by the Rangers on a very memorable night.
Leetch played in 1129 games and scored 240 goals along with 741 assists for 981 points. He won the Norris trophy twice, the Calder Trophy, and the Conn Smythe Trophy that will go down as the best American defenseman of all time.