Brian Joseph Leetch (born March 3, 1968) is a retired American professional ice hockey defenseman who played 18 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins. He is generally considered one of the top defensemen in NHL history, being particularly noted for his skating, offense, and playmaking abilities. He and fellow Rangers teammate Mike Richter were inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008. Leetch was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto the following year.
Leetch accumulated many individual honors during his 18-year career. He was a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenseman (1992, 1997) and remains the only American-born winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP for his brilliant play during the Rangers' run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship. He is one of only five NHL defensemen to score 100 points in a season with his 102-point campaign in 1991–92. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1989 and his 23 goals that season remain an NHL record for rookie defensemen. Leetch's number 2 was retired by the Rangers on January 24, 2008. During the ceremony, longtime teammate Mark Messier referred to Leetch as the "Greatest Ranger of All Time."
Although he was born in Texas, his family moved from there three months after he was born, eventually settling in Cheshire, Connecticut. This is where Leetch began to hone his hockey skills at a local ice rink managed by his father. In high school he excelled in baseball and hockey, first at Cheshire High School, and then at Avon Old Farms. As a sophomore, his 90-mph fastball helped the Cheshire Rams baseball team to a state championship and, as a senior at Avon Old Farms, he set the school record for strikeouts in a game with 19. Hockey, however, was the sport in which he excelled. As a sophomore at Cheshire, he scored 53 goals and 50 assists, earning All-state honors. In 2 seasons with Avon Old Farms he scored 70 goals and 90 assists in 54 games. These numbers were especially remarkable for a defenseman. NHL scouts were starting to take notice and the New York Rangers chose Leetch as their first-round pick (9th overall) in 1986. Following in the footsteps of his father Jack, Brian enrolled at Boston College in the fall of 1986, and, like his father, would become an All-America defenseman for the Eagles.