One of the best to ever play Broadway has called it a day. Brian Leetch the on ice leader and captain of the New York Rangers, and one of the best defensemen to ever pull on the Blue shirt announced his retirement on Thursday, bringing an end to his 18 year NHL career.
Leetch sat out the 2006-07 season, holding back the urge to join back in mid way when a few teams came calling. But as the season came to an end, he realized that he had "no comeback in him", leading him to today's announcement.
He was perhaps the greatest American born player to take to the game, an 11 time all star and two time Norris trophy winner who no doubt counts as his proudest moment the 1994 Stanley Cup run for New York a playoff year which saw him win the Conn Smyth Trophy.
He first appeared on the hockey scene as part of the 1988 US Olympic team, joining the Rangers right after the Winter games, going on to win the Calder trophy for rookie of the year.
He was the ultimate Ranger it seemed, the steady rock of which they would build their high profile teams of the early nineties. Culminating in that long awaited Stanley Cup victory of 94.
But as the years wound down Leetch would leave the Rangers, something that seemed utterly impossible in those early days, but became part of the game in 2003-04 when he went to Toronto at the trade deadline. It's a move that still leaves him with a tinge of bitterness towards Rangers GM Glen Sather and perhaps sits as one of the more dramatic moments in Rangers history.
A subsequent shift over to the hated Bruins, would find him in Black and gold for 2005-06 and while the uniform didn't look right on him there, his appearances in New York were still a celebration of what once was.
He took the last season off, spending time at his Boston home and never felt the urge to don the blades again, announcing his retirement once the Rangers playoff run had come to an end.
In an era where hockey is suffering a slump in many markets in the USA, another Brian Leetch might come in handy right about now. But, players like him don't come along very often, someone else down the line will have to pick up that torch for American born players. It's a hard standard to be held to, but the foundation is a solid one.
The accolades pour in for one of the Rangers best.
New York Times-Brian Leetch Retires From Hockey
Newsday-Ex-Rangers star Leetch retires
New York Post-Happy Trails 2U
New York Daily News-Leetch hangs up his skates
Globe and Mail-Leetch officially retires
Canadian Press/TSN-Leetch officially retires from NHL