DENVER – Brian Leetch glided out to the ice in loafers, not skates.
The former defenseman was wearing a blue suit and matching tie, instead of his familiar Rangers sweater. He’s grown quite fond of retirement.
“I’m not looking to play another game,” Leetch said with a laugh. “I know that’s done.”
Leetch was honoured before the Colorado Avalanche’s game with the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, along with Mike Richter, Brett Hull and Cammi Granato. The group will be inducted into the 2008 class of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday night in Denver.
Hull even took a break from his co-general manager duties with the Dallas Stars to attend the festivities.
“When you get an honour like this thrust upon you, it’s pretty special,” said Hull, who wrapped up his 20-year career as the league’s third all-time leading goal scorer with 741.
Granato had plenty of family and friends on hand for the tribute, including her brother, Tony.
However, he was a little distracted, getting his team ready for a season-opening game and all. Tony Granato coached his first contest Thursday night since taking over the Avalanche in May. It’s his second stint in charge of the team.
“The hockey family is such a tight family – a lot of times you get this overlap,” Cammi Granato said. “Seventeen of us are in town to see Tony’s opening game.”
Not to mention celebrate her induction. She’s the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. women’s hockey team with 343 points in 205 games.
“To know I was the first woman, it was a pretty nice feeling,” she said of the honour.
Richter couldn’t have asked for a better buddy to go into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame with than Leetch.
“I spent my entire adult life with him, my entire NHL career,” said Richter, who had a career 301-258-73 mark as a goaltender with the Rangers. “It made my life easier playing with one of the best individuals to have ever played.”
Leetch was an 11-time all-star in 18 seasons, all but one spent in a New York sweater. He was also a two-time winner of the Norris Trophy.
He’s still as big of hockey enthusiast as ever, catching as many games as he can on television. He likes to keep close tabs on the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Bruins, the teams he skated for in his career.
Leetch is also a big fan of players like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
“I like the game right now, and it’s only going to get better,” Leetch said.
Richter is spending his post-hockey days working for an investment firm in downtown New York. He has one word of advice for anyone thinking of investing in Wall Street right now – don’t.
“The last few weeks have been an eye-opener and have been insane,” Richter said with a grin. “I’ve learned a lot.”
Hull feels like a glorified intern these days, learning the ropes from fellow co-GM Les Jackson. But he’s attacked the position with the same intensity as he did as a player.
“I know the game, I know what it takes to win, what type of people I want on my team,” Hull said. “But it’s the little things – how you manage the team, the paperwork to send someone to the minors. Those intricacies are hard to learn.”
Richter looked like he could still step in the net. The longtime Rangers star was forced to retire earlier than he wanted due to concussions.
“I don’t think any athlete really ends up retiring on his own terms,” Richter said. “You are basically forced to one way or another. You know it’s going to end so it’s difficult to have someone else tell you it’s over. It was disappointing.”