While awaiting the transcript of the Brian Leetch conference call, here’s a story from NHL. com on No. 2, and also a story about John Davidson—who is going into the broadcasters’ wing—talking about Leetch.
I will either post the whole transcript below, or link to it, when it becomes available.
Here are tonight’s pregame notes. The wait must be tough for a 10 p.m. game. Enjoy.
EVENING UPDATE, 6:42 P.M.: Hey, sorry about breaking a promise. I have the Leetch transcript, but it’s really, really long and there’s no link available at this point. So I’m trying to figure how to post it. Maybe NHL.com will eventually have it, so I can put up the link. Otherwise, I’ll try to figure a way to post it tomorrow.
I figured it out. Actually, Josh Thomson, 26, told he how to do it. So here it is:
Q. And also, do you look back on that, many of us do, as perhaps the U.S.’s finest moment, other than 1980?
BRIAN LEETCH: Well, I certainly agree we had a lot of strong personalities on that team. The locker room was pretty much set with the roles everyone played. And personality?wise, I mean, with Jeremy Roenick and Tkachuk and Guerin, Hull, and we had Chelios come later, but we had a lot of individuals with strong personalities, yet they were all very competitive.
Everyone wanted to win, and we had the one common goal in that regard. So I think as captain, it was a role that, you know, I was publically representing the team, you know, trying to do your best when it came time to maybe talk to the coaches or something.
Otherwise, our team really did everything together. It’s such a short time, that by the time they announce the captaincy you’re right into the tournament and there’s not a lot ?? (operator interruption.)
Didn’t just rely on good fortune or a hot goaltender to get you through. We had guys that were nearer some of the peaks of their career. We had good young players. We had good size both on defense and up front. We had a great mix of players where we hadn’t had in the past. We might have had a lot of small skaters or not the goal scorer or maybe not the mobility or size back on defense.
We seemed to have all of that and had Richter and all that, so it was exciting for sure. Obviously different circumstances than ‘60 or ‘80 at the Olympics. But to get the best players from the NHL together and be Americans and be able to compete straight up with the best of the rest of the world and then be successful was a big moment for us for sure.
Q. Brian, again, congratulations. You look at the other three guys going in with you, you played on that ‘02 Stanley?Cup?winning Detroit Red Wings team. From your perspective, can you comment on kind of the Red Wings of that era and what those guys brought to that team?
BRIAN LEETCH: Well, that team, I mean, was loaded with professionals. When you looked up and down that lineup, the amount of years that players are still continuing to play at a high level. Players that are out of the game, you know, like Steve and Brett and Luc.
And then the style that they were able to play in the NHL at that time, where it was not as easy to play that puck?control game and to hold onto it for long stretches and to make as many plays as they managed to do.
So I think obviously Stevie was the leader, and had been there so long and was so well?respected by everyone in that locker room and around the league. It started there, just like our teams in New York started with Messier.
Had a lot strong guys around him that wanted to win, and you had goal scorers like Brett and Luc. You know, up and down that lineup it was just an impressive team to watch. Yet still they had the guys that were there that could play a tough game and get in the corners and muck it up and be aggressive and be physical when they had to.
But they were a great team in that their pieces all fit together. They were a fun team to watch, for sure.
Q. Just wanted to know, what do you do now in retirement? How has that all been post?hockey?
BRIAN LEETCH: Well, I pretty much just been home with the family. I mean, no specific job, that’s for sure. I help out with some charities, yeah, when I can. Obviously I have more time to do that. But I have a nine year old and a six year old and a four year old. Our four year old this year is going to school until noon each day, so that gives us a little break.
But one of us, my wife or I, are with the children at all times. So helping out in their sports. I just really enjoy being at home in this stage of their lives.
Q. From a distance now, what is your feeling about the NHL Players Association, and do you look at that with dismay at all?
BRIAN LEETCH: Well, it’s probably a good word, dismay, but I don’t quite have all the information about what’s going on. It’s a little disappointing for sure. I think it’s important for the players in the league to have, you know, guys in that office on the same page and everybody working in the same direction so the players can concentrate on playing the game. And when their representatives give them information, it’s all same all the time you know, and all coming from strong leadership.
So my hope is they figure that out and get it sorted out in a hurry, and that the players can still feel comfortable and the information they get is accurate. I don’t have all the information on what’s going on, but it is a little disappointing for sure.
Q. Skating an a fundamental part of hockey. You were a very, very good skater, and I think some of your success was due to that. Just from watching you after practices and stuff, it seemed like you really loved it. Can you talk a little bit about was there a time when you went from being, say, average to really good because you put some effort in? Who do you credit besides yourself? Is it your dad, Jack? Was there power skating coaches?
BRIAN LEETCH: Well, I think I understood the importance of skating early on. Physically, I wasn’t quite as big early on as maybe a kid coming up. Certainly when you have hitting and that type of play or you’re out there for more minutes than other guys, the skating is what is able to separate you.
So I never felt like I was an explosive player where I could stop and start as fast as some players, but I did work on skating as long and at as high a level as I could. We used to do a lot of laps in youth hockey growing up.
Then I think the biggest jump in my skating came training for the Olympics in ‘88. Jack Blatherwick was our conditioning skating instructor. We did a lot of work with weight vests and a lot of high?speed crossovers and turns. We would do that at least once a week for seven months.
I noticed a lot of improvement not only in myself, but in other guys on this team. Kevin Stevens made a huge jump in skating, Craig Janney. I thought it made a big difference when I went to the NHL. I noticed that that’s the one thing when you get to the NHL you work on so many system things and different types of work because you’re playing three games a week as opposed to just training and working towards one goal at the end of the year.
My skating was better than a lot of guys because of all the work I had put in with the U.S. team.
Q. We’ve always talked about your prep school and college experience before coming to the NHL. But there was a year there that you also played, I think ‘87, played in both the World Juniors and for the American team in the World Championship and did well. Psychologically, how did that help you go on and approach the NHL? Was it a big confidence boost?
BRIAN LEETCH: I think they were all building blocks, high school and college and being able to compete in the junior nationals and then on to the national team. But I still think there was a lot of doubt at that point about whether I was quite ready to make that jump. I think training with the Olympic team there in what would have been my sophomore year from the summer through to the Games in February.
And we played some NHL teams during their exhibition season. We played European teams. We played Russian Select teams, Canadian national teams that had some NHL players on it.
I think that’s where I finally felt that it was gonna be the right time for me after the Olympics to make that jump. I thought I could compete and I thought my skill level was good enough. The biggest thing is like you said, the confidence was finally there. The doubt was gone. I thought it was the right move to make. I thought I could make it at that point.
Q. Brian, I was hoping you could comment on a former teammate of your with the Rangers and Team USA who is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame next month, Tony Amonte, and the impact he had.
BRIAN LEETCH: Yeah, Tony was great. I mean, I think Tony was the opposite of me coming out of college. He came with a lot of self?confidence and excitement. He came at the same time to New York as Doug Weight did. He was another player like that. They believed that they were ready for the NHL. They actually decided to stay with the team as opposed to going and maybe working towards the Olympics and going back to school, that route.
They thought they were ready for the NHL, and that’s what they wanted at that point. It was fun for me to see excited guys. Tony was crazy legs out there. Just got on the ice and skated and skated. He had a big shot for a young kid coming out of college. He could get it off at high speed. They put him on Mess’s line fairly early, and there wasn’t a better guy just to boost his confidence and tell him to go.
Tony would open up for one?timers and bust down that wing to the net and go right to the post. So it was fun to watch. You don’t really expect that all the time from a guy just coming in. A lot of times it takes a little bit for you to feel your way or to gain that confidence. He came right in and looked like he was gonna play for a number of years, which he did.
So it was great having him as a teammate. And then obviously to have him on those U.S. teams, great personality, fun in the locker room, and dangerous in a lot of situations. And he played tough. Wasn’t the biggest guy, but he was in there scrapping and had his hands up and was always moving in there. He was great teammate to have. Great that he’s going into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Q. Were you on the ice when he scored that decisive goal in Game 3 of the ‘96 World Cup?
BRIAN LEETCH: The one that went off his stick there?
BRIAN LEETCH: I don’t know, I feel like I was. I believe I was. I thought I got into the pile. You know, you kind of put yourself in those situations. Yeah, I was up the ice. Either had just changed or was just getting off the ice and he scored. We all ran over and jumped on him there.
Q. You were the last to score 100 goals in a season. Just wondering if you think that will ever be done again? Do you think there’s anyone in the NHL that might have the ability to do that?
BRIAN LEETCH: I wish I scored 100 goals in a season.
Q. I mean 100 points.
BRIAN LEETCH: Right. That’s a good question. It was great to see Greene have the season he did last year with the goals. I think you certainly need to be on a team like that, like Pittsburgh or like Washington, where they have some talented young players up front.
But I think until you see forward’s points going up to 150, 160 consistently, it’s gonna be hard for a defenseman to reach 100. You know, they usually coincide together. If the overall top guys are heading that direction, usually that means more opportunity for D to be involved. Obviously a power play would have to be very successful.
You know, be well over 25% and you would have to be out there all the time. So I certainly would say that it’s not impossible. It seems like the league is trending that way with some more goal scoring by the top guys and some higher point totals.
I would say it’s possible. I would say there’s young guys out there that can do it, but you’re gonna need to be on a team that has all the right players in place and the right coaching system for those guys. You’re gonna need a goaltender to cover up, because playing D in that offense for the whole season with all that, you’re gonna need a goaltender to be your back bone.
I hope it happens. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s impossible. But until the overall point totals go up by the top guys, it’s gonna coincide with that, I believe.
Q. It’s 15 years ago since the Rangers won. Do you still feel like it was yesterday? How did you get along with Mike Keenan?
BRIAN LEETCH: Well, doesn’t feel like yesterday anymore. I mean, after we won, we had a couple more successful years and got into the playoffs. But to the end of my career, you know, I missed the playoffs for the last six years there, 7 years. I got traded to Toronto and got eliminated in the second round.
It was fun to be back in the playoffs. But when you’re constantly fighting for that eighth playoff spot and you end up being ninth or tenth and you’re losing a lot of one?goal games, the season goes by very slow.
So the end of my career was a little bit disappointing and definitely moved along at a different pace than when you’re winning games and you’re really looking forward to constantly trying to keep the good feelings going, as opposed to, you know, trying to restart it and get things turned around. It was definitely slow at the end.
You know, with Mike Keenan, it was a constant work in progress for me. I think Mike has always come into a new situation and kind of had preconceived notions about players that were there before him. A lot of those players ended up being moved ahead of time or got moved soon after he arrived. I think I was slotted to be one of those guys.
I think he wanted Chelly on the team and some guys that he had before. He was looking to maybe use me in that situation. But I had been there for a few years and I was friends with Mark. Neil Smith liked me as a player.
So I think it took me a while to ?? for Mike to trust me, to accept that I was going to be there, and that I was a guy that he could put out there consistently. You know, I think that goes on with Mike throughout ?? with a lot of players throughout the whole season.
But when I look back at the amount of ice time I got, you know, and how well our team was prepared and how it was put together so well by Neil, that him and I are only ?? only had our names on the Stanley Cup once, and they’re linked together. That’s what we always used to talk about. We’ll be forever linked together on that team. I don’t think we would have won without him, and I hope he feels the same way about me.
Q. You’re going into the Hall of Fame with three great players. They’ve played most of their careers in the west, and you were always in the east. Do you have any recollections of playing against them and being able to tell us why they also belong in the Hall of Fame?
BRIAN LEETCH: Well, it was always ?? I mean, with Luc and Brett, for sure they were probably some of the hardest guys to scout and to say, Well, this is where this guy’s gonna be all the time to eliminate their chances as a defenseman. I mean, you could watch it on TV and see where they scored goals.
Luc found a lot of ways to get open and had a long stick and was great at tipping pucks, knocking it down, quick shots. Not always at coming in and making moves or high speed. Just always seemed to be somewhere where you weren’t, and the puck was coming off his stick and going in the net.
It was one of those where you weren’t worried about him, you weren’t worried about him, because you thought you had it under control. And then the puck was going to him and going into the net. You kind of just shook your head. Did that every game. His name was constantly on the score sheet and constantly in the top of the league in scoring.
I think Brett was the other way. You knew that he was gonna be circling and trying to find that open area. But that was one guy that I think everybody said the same thing, you know, he did not need much room. That shot could be one time from anywhere, and the speed and accuracy was ridiculous.
I mean, you would sit in the locker room watching highlights, and all of a sudden, he would go down on one knee there and shoot it at an angle and be up in the top corner. He would have that grin on his face, and you’d look at each other and shake your head. How do you stop that? You can’t stop that. Goalie didn’t see it. There was no room to get it off, and he would get it off for sure.
The thing that I noticed about playing with Brett on the U.S. teams, is that his passing and his play?making and his vision were things that got so overshadowed by his ability to shoot that puck and score goals. He used to overpass in practice I think just to show us he could do it.
We kept trying to set him up for one?timers, and we knew he would be our go?to guy as a goal scorer. He would constantly feather it through someone’s legs or over a D’s stick, or pass it back across the crease when someone was peeling off. Excellent, excellent passer and play?maker.
Steve could do everything. I mean, as a center iceman, you know, take the big faceoff, be in the corner mucking for the puck. He could do the wrap?arounds because he could get leverage on you to get the puck. He could make three or four moves to buy time and feather it off to someone.
Or if he had to hold onto it and beat you to the net and make the play, he could do that. He was one of those guys that could just do everything. I think he even did more as it got later in his career. He’s out there blocking shots, on penalty kill, power play and his leadership in the locker room.
You know, his line, whenever Steve came on the ice, he was pretty much the focal point for your team meetings and everything , how you’re gonna stop Yzerman and his line. Offensively to get to as many points as he did and always be up there in scoring, you never stopped him, but you tried to come up with ways to make it more difficult for him to be successful.
Q. I asked you earlier about your skating. Where did Steve Yzerman’s skating rank amongst the players of your generation?
BRIAN LEETCH: It’s probably overall elusiveness and the smarts with the puck. You know, it’s kind of like when you talk about Gretzky’s skating. No one looks at Gretz as the greatest skater, but you watch video of him and his ability to create space and hold onto that puck. I looked at Steve the same way. He had enough speed to beat you if he got you wrong?footed.
But he wasn’t someone that you were worried if the puck bounced behind you. But his ability to go laterally and do it at a faster speed than others, as well as that stick handling. He used to be able to hold onto that puck for such a long time and create plays.
So I wouldn’t say where he ranked, but he could do everything at the very high skill levels, for sure.