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Messier, Richter honored with Patrick Trophy

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Mike Richter is among the most accomplished American goaltenders in international hockey history and played a key role in the remarkable 1996 U.S. World Cup of Hockey championship run.

Messier Tribute Video from Wednesday's Event
Richter Tribute Video from Wednesday's Event
Lester Patrick Tribute Video from Wednesday's Event
Messier Talks About Winning Lester Patrick Trophy
Richter Talks About Winning Lester Patrick Trophy

By Jim Cerny,

They are already forever linked for what they accomplished together on the ice, as well as for the bond of friendship they built off of it. And on Wednesday night, Rangers legends Mark Messier, Mike Richter, and Brian Leetch were brought together for yet another special occasion when Messier and Richter were feted as 2009 recipients of the Lester Patrick Trophy, along with Detroit Red Wings executive Jim Devellano, “for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.”

Leetch, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 9, is a 2007 Lester Patrick Award recipient. He was on hand Wednesday evening to help honor his former Rangers teammates.

Mark Messier is only the fifth Canadian former Ranger to win the trophy named after a Blueshirts pioneer. The other winners were John Davidson, Rod Gilbert, Wayne Gretzky and Phil Esposito.
“This is fun to get together like this because unfortunately everyone’s got their own lives now and it’s difficult to see one another,” said Leetch. “But we’re always sending funny texts to each other and sharing funny e-mails. I think we do these events just so we can see other every so often.”

That this year’s Lester Patrick Awards had such a distinct Rangers flavor seems quite fitting. The Rangers organization originally presented the National Hockey League with the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1966. It is named to honor the man who coached the Rangers from the 1926-27 season through 1938-39, and was General Manager from 1926-27 through 1945-46, overseeing the first three Stanley Cup championships -- 1928, 1933, and 1940 -- in franchise history.

The Patrick family has played a huge role in the history of the Rangers, not solely based on the work of Lester Patrick, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947. Lester’s sons, Lynn and Muzz, played for the Blueshirts in the 1930’s and 1940’s, with Muzz later serving as the team’s coach and General Manager, as well. Craig Patrick, Lester’s grandson, was the Rangers’ General Manager in the 1980’s.

The Rangers’ historical influence on the Lester Patrick Award and on hockey in the United States was not lost on Messier during Wednesday’s festivities.

“I think I am receiving this award really based on the ’94 Stanley Cup team, not only because the way we won that championship, but winning it here in New York with two American-born players in Richter and Leetch,” said Messier just prior to the awards presentation at Gotham Hall in New York City.

“That team seemed to catch the imagination of people, not only in hockey, but also people from outside the game,” Messier continued. “I really accept this award on behalf of my teammates and the (Rangers) organization. They are the reason I am here tonight.”

Richter’s contributions to U.S. hockey, like that of Leetch, go beyond his championship-caliber play with the Rangers, for whom he played his entire National Hockey League career.

The Philadelphia-born goaltender, who owns Rangers franchise records for most wins (301) and games played (666), is, arguably, the most successful U.S.-born goalie on the international stage. Richter led the United States to victory in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey tournament, and participated in three Olympics, a Canada Cup, two World Junior Championships, and three World Championships.

“There’s always something that is particularly powerful about representing your whole country and not just one city,” said Richter. “It is an incredible honor.”

Richter paid homage to the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team that won the gold medal in Lake Placid for inspiring more U.S. kids to start playing the sport than any other U.S. entry has before or since.

In fact, Richter downplayed the influence he and Leetch had on kids from the United States, instead deferring to the 1980 Olympic team. But he did not shy away from discussing the responsibility he felt in representing his county.

“Overall your responsibility is not to just to be a role model to the kids who might come up and play hockey,” said Richter. “You want to be a role model in all kinds of ways. And you want to fulfill what you are charged to do, and that is to compete at your best and win.”

Leetch, who was Richter’s teammate on many different U.S. teams, as well as with the Rangers, could not but help reflect on how their paths crossed again with the Lester Patrick Award.

“We’ve been together since we were 15 or 16 years old,” said Leetch. “To be in the same area, and last that long with the same NHL team, and have so many shared experiences, is fantastic.”

For another evening they were together again. Mike Richter and Brian Leetch. And their Captain, Mark Messier.

The ties that bind forever and ever.
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