After 18 pro seasons and 21 teams, Michael Leighton has retired from hockey.
Leighton, 38, was a journeyman goalie who helped carry the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. Unfortunately, he will be remembered by Flyers fans for one shot he didn’t save in the decisive Game 6 of that series.
The Athletic-Chicago was the first to report the news that he was retiring.
The highlight of Leighton’s career: three shutouts in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final against Montreal, propelling the Flyers into the Stanley Cup Final. He also helped the Flyers overcome a 3-0 series deficit and stun Boston earlier in the playoffs.
But he struggled in the Cup Final (3.96 goals-against average, .876 save percentage) as the Flyers lost to Chicago in six games despite Danny Briere’s heroics. In Game 6, an odd-angle shot by 21-year-old winger Patrick Kane got past Leighton in overtime, giving the Blackhawks a monumental 4-3 win and their first Cup since 1961.
“There’s obviously a lot of disappointment that still burns inside of me that wishes I could have won and brought the championship to Philadelphia,” Leighton told the Athletic. “But that whole playoff experience, that whole season, was definitely a positive for me. ... There’s a lot of goalies that play 15, 20 years and never make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.”
Leighton said he has received both insults and kind words from Philly fans over the years.
“With the internet and social media, I still hear things here and there," he said. "I still hear it from many fans that they were appreciative of me, what I did for the team that year, just helping them get into the playoffs and getting to the Final. There’s always fans who I meet who shake my hand and say ‘thank you.’ They even tell me that was the most exciting time they’ve ever had watching hockey. To hear that obviously feels great.”
He said the playoff crowds in Philly created an electric atmosphere.
Leighton was sort of like reliever Mitch Williams with the Phillies: a player who did good things but will always be remembered for a tragic ending. In Williams’ case, it was the three-run homer he served to Joe Carter that gave Toronto the 1993 World Series.
As with Leighton, it came in a Game 6, and it followed a rally that had put Philly in position to win the game.
Leighton thanked his wife, Jennifer, and his three children for their support over the years.