----Opening night was filled with many surprises and many standing ovations, however the biggest surprise and loudest ovation went to Brian Leetch showing up to drop the first puck. Everyone knew that he would enjoy a special night on January 24th when his number two will be retired. But there is another great #2 who also should have his numbers raised to the rafters and that is the equally great #2, Brad Park.
Leetch played 18 years, seventeen with the Rangers and then was traded to the Maple Leafs for a string of players, none of note. Brad Park played 17 years, eight with the Rangers and with Jean Ratelle was traded to the Boston Bruins for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. Leetch was Captain of the Rangers from 1997-200. Park was Captain of the Rangers from 1974-11/75. Brian Leetch was twice selected to the All-Star team, 1991-92, 1996-97. Park was picked three times starting in 1969-70, 1971-72 and 1973-74. In fact Brad Park was considered the second best defenseman in the NHL with the first being the immortal Bobby Orr.
Brian Leetch played 1139 games for the Rangers, with a 240-741-981 offensive total. That is an average of 57.71 points/year. Brad Park played 465 games for the Rangers with a 95-283-378 offensive total that averages out to 47.25 points/year. Considering that Leetch averaged nine games more a year that Park the averages are awfully close. Their best years were also remarkedly close. In 1991-92, Leetch played 80 games and was 22-80-102. In 1973-74 Park played in 78 games and was 25-57-82.
Leetch won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers, Park never did. Leetch was also the winner of the James Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL, in1991-92 and in 1996-97. Brad Park won the Bill Masterton Trophy with the Detroit Red Wings in 1984-85. This trophy is awarded for perserverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Only four Rangers have ever won this award the last one being Adam Graves in 2000-01.
Defensively I would give the edge to Brad Park. He was just as smooth on defense as he was on offense with an edge over Leetch. He took the body more often and more effectively. Leetch was a good skater who could burst into the offensive zone as good as anyone and was a great offensive threat. Park was a great skater who often seemed to be gliding.
So there you are. Offensively, the edge to Leetch with Park a step behind. On defense, the edge to Park, with Leetch a stride behind. My pick is Brad Park. But the point here is that while #2 Leetch is raised to the rafters so should #2 Brad Park. What do you think?