Rangers legend Brian Leetch inducted into IIHF Hall of Fame

NHL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive
Lou Capozzola-USA TODAY Sports

Brain Leetch was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame on Sunday in Tampere, Finland.

The IIHF announced their Hall of Fame class back in December of 2022.

“He is one of the most gifted defensemen in the history of our sport,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, a teammate of Leetch for parts of five seasons with the New York Rangers, and currently assistant executive director of USA Hockey. “His ability to turn the puck up the ice in transition is the best I’ve ever seen and he impacted virtually every game he played in.”

Team USA Hockey

Brian Leetch inducted into IIHF HOF

brian leetch
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports Brian Leetch

Leetch, 55, was one of the greatest U.S. born players in the history of the game. He had an NHL career that spanned 18 seasons, 1205 games, and 1028 points (247 goals, 781 assists). The Corpus Christi, Texas native is one of only eight defensemen in league history to break the 1000 point mark, with 981 of those points coming with the Blueshirts.

His key international accomplishments with Team USA are as follows:

  • Three WJC appearances and winning gold in 1987
  • Played in the 1988 Olympics
  • Two Canada Cup appearances, including leading Team USA to victory as captain 1996

Brian Leetch is one of the greatest Rangers

Has there ever been a more talented and gifted Ranger ever drafted? I doubt it. In 1989 Brian Leetch set an NHL rookie record for defensemen by scoring 23 goals and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year. He became only the 5th NHL defensemen to get over 100 points in a season when he had 102 (22g, 82a) in 1992. That season he picked up his first of two Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman.

Of course, his jaw dropping and inspirational performance in the 1994 playoffs are what he will forever be remembered for. That season he scored 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points in 23 games. Leetch’s performance was done while having his shoulder frozen before each game in the Finals due to a tear. Those numbers and that courage made him the 1st American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Playoffs.

Leetch would eventually captain the Rangers after Messier had a fall out with management and bolted for Vancouver. It wasn’t a great time for Leetch as the Rangers were a shadow of what they used to be and his style was very reserved and quiet.

Sadly, GM Glen Sather traded him away on March 3rd, 2004 for two 21 year olds, defenseman Maxim Kondratiev, center Jarkko Immonen, a first-round pick in the 2004 draft (Lauri Korpikoski) and a second-round in the 2005 (Michael Sauer).

Trading Leetch was bad enough, but on his birthday? That’s cold.

Leetch was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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