(Photo credit: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe)

By: Jeff Playdon | Follow me on Twitter @PlaydonJeff

On January 16th, the Cambridge, Massachusetts native Stephen Leach will celebrate his 56th birthday. Leach has been a hockey native in New England since college when he played for the University of New Hampshire from 1984-1986. During the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals selected Leach 34th overall. However, since Leach was still playing at UNH, it wouldn’t be until the ’85-’86 season when Leach would debut in the NHL.

Leach played 15 years in the NHL, five of those with the Boston Bruins (1991-1996). On March 8th, 1996, Leach was traded from Boston to St. Louis for Kevin Sawyer and Steve Staios. After playing for Boston, Leach’s career went downhill as he would play for five teams in his last four seasons before retiring in 2000. Since Leach is celebrating his 56th birthday today, let’s take a quick look at the right-winger’s career.

Finding his Footsteps in Washington

It took Leach quite some time before playing full-time for the Washington Capitals. In fact, it wasn’t until the ’88-’89 season when Leach played full time in Washington. Before that, Leach played just 34 games from ’85-’88. Leach played in so few games because he was a member of the U.S Olympic Hockey Team that participated in the ’88 Winter Olympic Games.

In his first fulls season playing with the Capitals, Leach played 74 games, scored 11 goals, 19 assists, and had a +/- of -4. His very next season would be the best he had in Washington, as he scored 18 goals, 14 assists, and had a +/- of 10. Then, in the offseason of 1991, the Capitals decided to trade Leach to Boston for Randy Burridge. After playing six years in Washington, Leach played a total of 246 games, scored 43 goals, had 54 assists, and a +/- of -5. Nonetheless, Leach was now a Bruin and looked to make an impact on his new team.

Career Numbers in the Black and Gold

In his first season with Boston, Leach made a remarkable impact. In fact, Leach would have the best season of his career in ’91-’92 when he scored 31 goals, 29 assists, and a 0.77 points per game average. Leach’s next season was just as good, as he put up 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points. The Bruins made the playoffs in both seasons, but Leach and his fellow teammates were unsuccessful in both Cup runs.

In Leach’s next three seasons, he was riddled by injuries and could not put up stellar numbers like ’91-’92 and ’92-’93. Since Leach was always getting injured and getting older, Boston decided to move on from Leach on March 8th, 1996. Amid the ’95-’96 season, Leach was traded from Boston to St.Louis for Kevin Sawyer and Steve Staios. At this point in Leach’s career, his numbers would decrease, and Leach would bounce from team to team.

End of Career/Retirement

After being traded from Boston to St. Louis, Leach played two seasons for the Blues. Leach only played 31 games in those two seasons and scored nine points. At the end of the ’96-’97 season, St. Louis had seen enough of Leach and traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes, who were in their first NHL season formerly known as the Hartford Whalers.

The Blues traded for a 6th round draft pick in 1998 (Brad Voth) and Alexander Godynyuk. In his sole season with Carolina, Leach played 45 games and again scored nine points on the season. After Carolina, Leach would play for Ottawa, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh before retiring in 2000. At the end of his career, Leach’s final numbers would be 702 games played, 130 goals scored, and 153 assists for 283 points.

Unfortunately, Leach’s career shaped out the way it did, but nonetheless, on the bright side, Leach did put up stellar numbers when he did play for the Bruins. So, on behalf of the entire BNG Hockey Organization and myself, we wish you a Happy 56th Birthday Stephen Leach!