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Brian Leetch smiles during a news conference in Boston, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005.JOSH REYNOLDS/The Associated Press

Hall of Fame defenceman Brian Leetch and former You Can Play executive director Patrick Burke have joined the NHL's department of player safety.

Leetch will fill the position of manager of player safety recently vacated by Rob Blake, who was named assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Kings last month.

Burke will serve in the newly created position of director of player safety.

"Brian Leetch and Patrick Burke are two astute members of the hockey community who will bring unique perspectives and personal experiences to the Department of Player Safety," NHL vice-president of player safety and hockey operations Brendan Shanahan said in a statement Thursday.

Leetch, who spent the majority of his career with the New York Rangers, ranks eighth all-time among NHL defencemen with 1,028 career points.

He won the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff's most valuable player when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994. He is also a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's top defenceman and won the NHL rookie of the year award in 1989.

Burke, a former Philadelphia Flyers scout, is one of the founding partners of the You Can Play Project, which fights discrimination in sports based on sexual orientation.

Burke, the son of former NHL executive Brian Burke, stepped down as executive director of You Can Play on Tuesday, but is still involved with the organization behind the scenes.

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