Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Congratulations Brian Leetch

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.


  1. I grew up in Cheshire and knew Brian well from fourth grade into high school until he left for AOF. I'm really happy for him that he had such a great career in hockey. Go Yanks!

  2. Thanks for commenting; that's very cool.

    If I remember correctly Leetch had a younger brother who was also a very good athlete. Do their parents still call Cheshire home? I can remember the Leetch family having an ad in the Cheshire High hockey program during the years I played against them.

    So if you were in Leetch's age group, do you also know former Yankee farmhand and current Dodgers back-up catcher Brad Ausmus? He's a year younger than Leetch. I find conflicting information as to whether he went to Cheshire High or Cheshire Academy, so I don't know if the two were teammates.

  3. Not too sure if his parents still live in Cheshire but growing up in Wallingford the local papers still talk about him on a fairly regular basis.

  4. Yes - Brian has a younger brother - Eric - who was a star football player - I graduated with him in 1991. He went to West Point where he briefly played football but ended up playing more hockey. He went into special forces and served in Iraq and Afghanastan - I think he's home now. The Leetch's still live in Cheshire as far as I know. They are a great family.

    Brad Ausmus went to Cheshire High School. He was a freshman on the '84 team that Brian Leetch lead to the state title - my brother was on the team. He was drafted by the Yankees out of high school and had them pay for Dartmouth where he went in the offseason.