At the excitement of fans and friends alike, defenseman Brian Leetch will return to New England as one of the newest additions to the Boston Bruins roster.
"The phone is ringing constantly from a lot of people that are excited about it," said Leetch during this morning's press conference at the TD Banknorth Garden. "I have a lot of friends in the area that kept saying, ‘Come to Boston; let's win a Stanley Cup.'"
Bruins General Manager Mike O'Connell, who has been a busy man as of late, announced Wednesday that Leetch will join the Bruins after signing a one-year contract.
"Certainly I thought about it many times," said Leetch. "I was proud to be drafted by the Rangers and I thought that I would finish my career in New York, but there were many times that I thought about being a Bruin, just like you daydream about a lot of things. Yesterday when I was with my friends, we were all just shaking our heads because we couldn't believe that this was reality."
Leetch, 37, grew up in Connecticut and then played at Boston College. After playing for Team USA at the 1998 Winter Olympics he joined the New York Rangers. Leetch spent the next 16 seasons with the Rangers—winning a Stanley Cup in 1994—before being traded on March 3, 2003, to Toronto at the trade deadline.
"The trade was difficult for sure, when you first find out," said Leetch. "I happened to be here in Boston in March when they called me and told me I had been traded to Toronto. When the season was canceled I started thinking about what opportunities might arise."
Leetch based his decision to come to Boston on variety of factors.
"My one strategy or goal was to find a team that I thought I had a chance to be successful on, and that I could fit in and contribute to," said Leetch.
In addition to his overall desire to be in Boston, Leetch also admitted that the Bruins' ability to be aggressive on the current market and its compilation of previous talent and recently signed players also aided in his decision.
During the press conference, O'Connell emphasized the positive impact he believes Leetch will have on the team, most especially on some of the younger Bruins.
"Brian has accomplished quite a bit in his career," said O'Connell. "We still feel we have three or four young defensemen who haven't made it yet, but are on the verge of making it and they have to have someone to look at and learn from. With Brian's experience, the way he carries himself, I think it's going to be an excellent addition and hopefully will provide leadership for us for many, many years down the road."
Although Leetch signed a one-year contract, he shared O'Connell's optimism for remaining with the Bruins for more seasons to come.
"We went to the Bruins and they came to us early in the process and they were pretty much my number one choice, so when this came about, I thought it would be good for me," said Leetch about the one-year deal. "I thought it would help me to perform and keep some pressure on me to play well so that the Bruins will want me back next year."
As for the upcoming season, O'Connell remained confident that Leetch would be a well-rounded asset to the team.
"One of our first priorities was to go for a defenseman that would provide that leadership on the blue line, provide the offense and give us a chance to be successful with the new rules and the new environment and we are very happy to have Brian with us," said O'Connell.
After waiting 17 years, Leetch's friends finally can rest at ease, as they will no longer have to watch him from the TD Banknorth Garden stands as an opponent.
"When you are around your friends, you talk about different scenarios, and wouldn't it be great to be a Bruin, and now it's here and yeah, it's been a little bit of a shock, but in such a great way."
As for his friends' outstanding demands for a championship, Leetch said, "There is no reason why we should not be shooting for a Stanley Cup."To read a copy of the press conference transcript, please click here.