Friday, January 25, 2008

The Legions of Leetch pay their regards

He may have worn number two during his playing days, but on the night he was honoured by the Ranger faithful. Brian Leetch was nothing but a one!

Thursday night the Rangers celebrated the achievements of a defenceman who became one of the most creative players to ever wear the Broadway Blues, as they raised his number to the rafters of the famed Madison Square Garden and feted him with accolades.

Leetch was one of the most dominant players to ever patrol a blue line for the Rangers, but he was much more than just a solid rear guard, his offensive flashes reinvented the style of play for the Rangers, highlighting a transition game now famous for the modern NHL, but back in his day a skill that was still a developing style.

The words for Leetch were many, but as is always the case it was the fans who spoke the loudest, with their applause and cheers on Thursday night.

And then as though to secure his place in the history books of Rangerdom, a panel of voters assembled by the New York Daily News made the occasion complete, with their selection of Leetch as the Greatest Ranger. Quite an achievement for a team that has seen many super stars pass through the halls of Madison Square, but truly when you think of the Rangers you think of number two and Brian Leetch..

It was a truly deserved award and one that no vote recount will ever overturn, his would be a landslide victory, the vision of his speed and skill still fresh in a Ranger fans mind even after his retirement.

For Ranger fans there are many special moments to think back on over the course of his career, a Conn Smythe trophy win when the Rangers won their Cup of 94 or his yeoman like service for Team USA in the World Cup of 1996, beyond that there were the spectacular goals, the punishing body checks and the stand up defensive play that made him much more than a Ranger legend, but an intense competitor respected by many if not all that ever skated with or against him.

Leetch's number now in the rafters joins rare company, the Rangers have only retired four other numbers in their long and storied history. He now shares the Gardens roof with such iconic New York Rangers as Giacomin, Messier, Gilbert and Richter, all known for their competitive fire and leadership, a quality that Leetch more than exemplified in his days in Ranger colours.

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