Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Leetch played in over 1,200 NHL games in his 18-year career, but judging be the excitement in his eyes when speaking of the Bruins' Legends Classic at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon, he acted more like a lucky fan than the NHL great he is.
Pond hockey with a group of fellow Hall of Famers at Fenway Park will do that to a guy.
Leetch, who still resides in Boston after retiring from the sport as a Bruin in 2006, was in his glory during the 60 minute fund-raising event at one of the world's most historic sports venues.
"When they first came up with this idea and I saw some of the games on TV, I said ?wow, I wonder what that must be like to skate in.?" he said in the Red Sox clubhouse following his Team Gold's 9-5 win over Team Black. "To be out there today and be a part of this with the amount of people that showed up, and with everything going to charity and the snow falling — it was incredible."
But despite the odd location for a hockey rink, the native of Cheshire, Conn. and Avon Old Farms alum wasn't necessarily new to the surroundings. And he wasn't alone at the Fens, either.
"My family all got to come here today," he explained, as his ice and snow-crusted equipment lay soaking near where Jason Varitek's catcher's gear did just months earlier. "We get to a few baseball games here, but to be out there playing hockey in the snow, it?s amazing."
The 2009 Hall of Fame inductee called Boston home long ago. Although it was brief, he bunked at the heights as a student-athlete at Boston College, playing for the Eagles' hockey team for the 1986-87 season. There, he bagged nine goals and 38 assists for 47 points in just 37 games played.
That was all the college life he needed as the No. 9 overall pick in the 1986 draft fled the Hub for the Big Apple to join the New York Rangers for his rookie season in 1987. Also included in the first round of that draft class were Vincent Damphousse (No. 6 overall), who went on to bag 1,205 points in 1,378 career games, and former Bruin Craig Janney (No. 13 overall), also of Boston College.
After two goals and 12 assists in 17 games his rookie year, he exploded for what would turn out to be a career-high 23 goals to go with 48 assists in his second campaign. Three seasons later, he would notch a career-high 102 points. Two years after that, Leetch would tie his career-high in goals en route to the Rangers' Stanley Cup crown in 1994.
The rest — like the weekend event at Fenway Park — was history.
As expected based on those first two seasons with the Blue Sweaters, Leetch went on to an illustrious career that included a pair of Norris Trophies in 1992 and 1997, as well as a Conn Smythe Trophy in 1994.
"I always will get the itch [to play again]," he admitted. "It's such a great game and to be out there with those guys it's so much fun. I could have stayed out there for four or five more hours, or as long as they would have let us — it was great."