Sunday, December 10, 2023

New Chicago Blackhawks coach talks about his Pontiac roots and career

The new head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, Luke Richardson, spent his childhood summers on his family’s farm and cottage between the eighth and ninth concession in Clarendon.
A former NHL player, Richardson’s connections to the community run deep.
Richardson’s grandparents were both born in Shawville, and his family continues to own a little cottage community on Richardson Lake in Clarendon. Richardson’s sister and cousin also own cottages on the lake. “It really is Richardson Lake,” he said, how the family’s cottage community has kept the name of the lake literal.
His wife’s parents are also from Shawville.
It was in this little cottage community that Richardson’s hockey career had its genesis.
“Terry Murray had a cottage there in his playing days, and he used to come up and spend summer time up there. He’d be running up on the farm to get in shape for the next season. And for me as a young boy, it was a thrill to have him around. You know, I idolized him. I got to see him get in shape in summer and then watch him on TV.”
Richardson described how his ties with the Murray family got him his first coaching job after retiring from his decade long career as a player in the NHL. During his time as player in the NHL, Richardson played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning and finally the Ottawa Senators.
With his connection to the then-general manager of the Ottawa Senators, Bryan Murray, and assistant general manager Tim Murray, Richardson was brought in to be the assistant to head coach for the Senators.
This gave Richardson his start in professional hockey coaching.
“Bryan was always gracious as a coach or general manager,‘’ said Richardson about Bryan Murray. “When I was coming up through the grades as a young guy in the NHL, he would always check in and we’d have good conversations in the summer. He asked all kinds of great questions that, you know, makes a young hockey player think. He was very patient but very clear and communicative of what he needed and wanted and that was helpful for me. So I am very fortunate enough to have that opportunity to play in and work for Bryan.”
Over the course of his coaching career Richardson was the assistant coach for the Ottawa Senators, the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens.
He was also the head coach for Binghamton Senators, Ottawa’s American Hockey League (AHL) team.
Richardson therefore got to experience the difference between being an assistant and a head coach.
This gave Richardson the ability to differentiate between running a bench and managing conversations and situations with players, referees and league managers, among other skills that are now crucial to his new job.
He was also given the opportunity to be the assistant coach for team Canada for the Deutschland-Cup and served as head coach of Canada’s victorious team in the 2016 Spengler cup.
“It’s a quick tournament, it’s a week so you got to be on your toes,” said Richardson about his experience at the Spengler Cup. “You got to be quick. You’ve got to make decisions quickly. It’s a really condensed time, like playoff time, so I thought that was a really great opportunity.”
The Spengler cup gave Richardson the chance to be a bench boss, which was another great experience for him.
“You’re patchworking a team together from all over the world who then had one practice and then you are kind of adjusting on the run, so I thought that was a really helpful opportunity for me,” said Richardson.
Richardson also got to coach during six playoff games in 2021 while he was with Montreal, while interim head coach Dominique Ducharme entered isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
“That gave me the opportunity to be in the highest role at the highest time of the year, which was a thrill,” said Richardson about his chance at coaching during the playoffs.
Richardson was named to the position of head coach for the Chicago Blackhawks on June 27, 2022 and is taking over at a time when the team is undergoing a major rebuild after winning the Stanley Cup three times between 2010 and 2015.
“(The Blackhawks management) is not trying to bluff the fans or the players. They’re just being upfront and honest. We’re not going to patchwork this and drag this out for another 10 years and then have to start over again,” said Richardson about the rebuild process.
Richardson says he’s going to rely on Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, two crucial pieces of the team that helped lead Chicago to its successes in the previous decade, to help rebuild the team.
“It’s frustrating sometimes as a player when you’re used to winning and you’re competitive, but I mean, they’ve won,” said Richardson about Kane and Toews. “I’ve explained to them that I’m going to count on them a lot and it is a full rebuild and there’s going to be situations that I’m going to need you guys to play low bar and then there’s going to be situations where I’m going to have to give some young players an opportunity. I am going to count on them to help out in that and be supportive in that area.”
Though Richardson recognizes the challenges he confronted with, he’s optimistic about Chicago’s prospects.
“With their (Kane and Toews) leadership and a young team with a good game plan, there’s no reason why we can’t make strides quickly. It’s going to be a long process. It might be a five-year process. It might be a three-year process. You know, I’m a pretty optimistic person and especially in sports, and if you aren’t, I think you’re behind the eight ball,” said Richardson about his plan to bring Chicago back to being competitive.
Richardson said he’s excited for the opportunity to be the head coach of one of the original six, and he’s up to the challenge of rebuilding the team after its years of success.
“I think this is a better challenge than to be given a great team that has a chance to win right away. How fun would that be to sit there and open the door for the great players? I think to watch a team grow together and for you to be a part of it, I think that’s a real satisfying thing in sports and, you know, I’m looking forward to being part of that,” concluded Richardson.


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