Tuesday, June 23, 2009
We're going a bit off the baseball beat with this one, but congratulations to former New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch, who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame this afternoon, along with Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, and Luc Robitaille. Arguably the greatest American born hockey player ever, Leetch was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last fall.
Despite making his retirement home in Boston, Leetch is an avowed Yankee fan, having grown up in Cheshire, CT, about 20 minutes from where I live. Leetch starred in both hockey and baseball in high school, first at Cheshire High (my high school hockey rival), then at Avon Old Farms prep school. As a high school pitcher he was clocked in the 90s and pitched Cheshire to a state championship as a sophomore.
Leetch went on to my alma mater, Boston College, where he led the Eagles to the 1986-87 Hockey East title, winning Hockey East Rookie of the Year, Hockey East Player of the Year, and the Hockey East Tournament MVP award. He was also named an All-American.
He left BC after his freshman year to join the U.S. National team, and played for the U.S. at 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, the first of three Olympic teams for which he would play. He won a silver medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, and also captained the U.S. team that won the innaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996.
Following the 1988 Olympics, he joined the Rangers, and won the NHL's Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year for the 1988-1989 season. He was also a two time Norris Trophy winner (91-92 and 96-97) as the NHL's top defenseman, and was the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP, as he led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994.
After the Cup victory, the Yankees honored the Rangers at a game, and Leetch, Mark Messier, and Nick Kypreos threw out the first pitches. I'm sure Leetch could bring the heat better than either Canuck.