(Long Island, NY) For 16 years, Brian Leetch was the consummate professional for the New York Rangers. Since he was chosen with the ninth overall selection in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, it was crystal clear that the defenseman was destined for greatness.
Three years later, he was called up by the Blueshirts and promptly won the NHL Rookie of the Year Calder Trophy, scoring 23 goals in the process. Perhaps that is when the chatter first began that Leetch was not only a heck of a talent, but also one of those special players that may one day be enshrined in Toronto.
End the chatter. Number two is on his way and it will officially take place with a ceremony on November 9.
Joining Leetch in the class is former Ranger Loc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and New Jersey Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello, who was selected as a builder. John Davidson, the former Rangers goaltender and announcer, was selected to enter the Hall’s media wing as the recipient of the 2009 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given annually for excellence during one’s broadcasting career.
Leetch and Robitaille became the 45th and 46th former Rangers to be elected into hockey’s hallowed halls north of the border.
“I am humbled and excited by this honor, particularly for me it is difficult to think of myself as a member of the Hall of Fame,” Leetch said to reporters. “It’s a pretty overwhelming day to say the least.”
Although Leetch had many great moments in New York and played in 11 All-Star Games, he is best remembered for his heroics during the 1994 postseason en route to the team’s first Stanley Cup in 54 years. He had 34 points (11 goals and 23 assists) in 23games and became the first player born in the United States to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the playoffs.
That was far from the only accolades Leetch had bestowed upon him during his career. He won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman in both the 1992 and 1997 seasons, holds Ranger career records for assists with 741 and goals by a defenseman with 240 and is second on the team list with 1,129 games played and 981 points.
Leetch also became only one of five defensemen in the history of the league to go over 100 points in a single season when he had 22 tallies and 80 assists during the 1991-92 campaign. He also played for Team USA in the World Cup, Canada Cup and three Olympics. Some of the hardware earned on the international circuit was a Gold Medal (1996 World Cup) and a Silver Medal (2002 Winter Olympics).
Back on January 24, 2008, the Corpus Christie, Texas native became the first defenseman and fifth overall Ranger to have his number hoisted to the Madison Square Garden rafters. That same year, Leetch was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
The man who wore both the “C” and the “A” on his sweater will have to prepare a speech for the second consecutive year, something that never gets old.