Rangers pioneer Lester Patrick, the team's first head coach, was the inspiration for the Lester Patrick Award (right), which has been honoring contributions to U.S. hockey since 1966.
The 2007 Lester Patrick Award will have a distinct Rangers flair to it this year, as Rangers legend Brian Leetch, broadcaster Stan Fischler and longtime Rangers front office executive John Halligan will receive the award on Nov. 7. Also winning the award is U.S. Olympian Cammi Granato, the younger sister of former Ranger Tony Granato.
The Rangers presented the award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, to the National Hockey League in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach, and general manager, and was a pioneer in the sport's development.
Heading this year's class is nine-time NHL All-Star Leetch. A gifted skater and play-maker, he was one of hockey's most exciting players and among the top defensemen of his generation.
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and raised in Connecticut, Leetch was a two-year prep star at Avon Old Farms and a prized recruit for Boston College, where he became the first freshman in NCAA history to be named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top U.S. college player in 1986-87.
He joined the U.S. national team in 1987-88 and played in the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary before making his debut with the Rangers following the tournament. In an 18-year pro career from 1988-2006, Leetch captured the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 1988-89, won two Norris Trophies as the League's best defenseman (1992, 1997) and made nine All-Star Game appearances. In 1994, he became the first U.S.-born player to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping the Rangers capture their first championship since 1940.
Leetch skated in three Olympic Games (1988, 1998 and 2002), winning the silver medal at Salt Lake City in his final appearance. He won a bronze medal at the 1986 World Junior Championship and captained the United States team that defeated Canada to win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
Leetch announced his retirement from the NHL in May, 2007 with 1,028 points (247 goals, 781 assists) in 1,205 regular-season games with the Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. He holds the Rangers' franchise record for career assists (741) and ranks second in career points (981) and games (1,129).
The Rangers will retire Leetch's No. 2 jersey prior to their game against the Atlanta Thrashers at Madison Square Garden Jan. 24.
Next on the list is Fischler, whose work as a writer, broadcaster and historian for more than half a century has earned him the familiar and well-deserved title as 'The Hockey Maven.'
The Brooklyn, New York, native's writing has brought hockey's rich tradition, legends and personalities to many generations of readers. With the help of his wife Shirley, Fischler has authored or co-authored more than 90 books on the game, including The Hockey Encyclopedia, Everybody's Hockey Book, The New NHL Encyclopedia and MetroIce: A Century of Hockey in Greater New York.
"First of all, I am tickled beyond belief," Fischler said when reached for comment about the award. "It's as neat a thing that has ever happened to me in more than half a century working in hockey. When you do things like what I do, such as writing books, doing broadcasts, interviewing players, writing blogs, its all fun. I've done this for 54 years, and it's not something that I have ever done with the aim of winning an award. It's really gravy."
Fischler began his writing career in the 1950s, working for the Brooklyn Eagle and the New York Journal-American, and later served as New York bureau chief for the Toronto Star from 1966-77. He also has written for The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Sport Magazine, Newsweek and Hockey Digest, and continues to publish the weekly hockey newsletter, The Fischler Report.
A fixture to television viewers in the New York metropolitan area for over 30 years, Fischler has appeared on hockey broadcasts involving the region's NHL clubs since March, 1975, when he joined SportsChannel New York, now FSN New York. He currently provides analysis for New York Rangers telecasts on the MSG Network and conducts studio interviews and pre- and post-game features for the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils on FSN. Fischler has received three Sports Emmy Awards for his work.
Finally, John Halligan has spent the past 44 years as a public relations executive, author, historian and archivist with the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Halligan joined the New York Rangers in 1963 and over a 24-year career served as the club's Public Relations Director, Business Manager and Vice President of Communications.
Halligan brought his PR expertise to the National Hockey League in a 20-year career from 1983-86 and 1990-2006 as Director of Communications and Special Projects. He also served as Director of Communications for NHL Anniversaries, the group which coordinated the League's 75th anniversary celebration in 1991 and Stanley Cup centennial in 1993.
He has earned many professional and civic honors, including awards from the Public Relations Society of America, the City of New York, the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and the Metropolitan New York Hockey Writers Association, and has served on the selection committee of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame for the past 17 years.
Halligan is the author of several books, including New York Rangers: Seventy-Five Years, Images of Sport: New York Rangers, and The Game of My Life: New York Rangers. He currently is working on multiple publishing projects.