Blast From The Past: Mike Richter

Blast from the Past: Mike Richter

Dale Money | May 14th, 2020

Considered by many observers, as arguably the greatest American goaltender to don a pair of pads, Mike Richter is one of the special players who was able to stay with one NHL team his entire career. A native of Abington, Pennsylvania, Richter grew up a fan of former Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent. Due to his mesmerizing playing style, Richter would blossom into a popular player among young hockey fans during his prime NHL years. His Statue of Liberty mask is still one of the most iconic designs.

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He was so well thought of during his playing career with the Wisconsin Badgers, they would, in fact, name an award after him. The award honors the player most voted, as the outstanding goaltender in NCAA hockey. In 2014, the first award was given out at the Frozen Four Tournament, in Richter’s home state of Pennsylvania to then UMass-Lowell player Connor Hellebuyck.

Stanley Cup Wins: 1994

NHL Clubs: New York Rangers

All-Star Appearances: 3

New York Rangers

Drafted by the Rangers in the 1985 draft, Richter would not play his first game for the organization until four years later. He would spend those next four years, between the Badgers and Rangers farm system. By 1990, Richter would eventually settle in with New York and outside of a small five-game stint with the Binghamton Rangers, did not return to the minors after that.

In the 1989 playoffs, Richter would be given his debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 4 of the opening round. He would save 26 of 30 shots, in a 4-3 loss and a first-round sweep by the Penguins. For the next three seasons, Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck shared the majority of the starts. However, Richter to his credit would finish as a Vezina finalist following the 90-91 season, even though he started less than half the games for his club that season.

Coming Into His Own

It wouldn’t be until 1993 before things would start to change for Richter. Following Beezer’s selection by the Florida Panthers during the 1993 Expansion draft, Richter would be given full control. Incredibly it would be just a year later that the Rangers would be battling for a Stanley Cup. Richter would be instrumental in leading New York to its first Lord Stanley in 54 years.

Down 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4, Richter stepped up in a huge way, rejecting a Pavel Bure penalty shot. He would make a number of timely saves in that game, giving the offense an opportunity to respond with three unanswered goals. This would put the Rangers up 3-1 in the series, a truly game-changing performance to say the least.

After the Cup win, Richter would manage to get them to a Conference final just once in the following three seasons and would not return to the playoffs after that. As the years went along, injuries continued to hamper Richter, and a month before the 2003-04 season, Richter would announce his retirement due to a skull fracture. The Rangers retired Richter’s #35 jersey in 2003. Richter left the Rangers tops in games played, wins, saves and shots against.

After retirement, he would decide to attend Yale University, through “The Eli Whitney Student’s Program.” It helps students with a non-traditional background.

Team USA

Richter invested himself heavily in USA Hockey during his playing career. Richter’s playing history with Team USA goes back as far as 1985, the same year he would be drafted into the NHL. In both 1985 and 1986, Richter would share netminding duties with Alan Perry in the Under-20 World Junior Championships.

By 1988, he would be ready to join the senior team for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Richter would lead American goaltenders in wins, saves, and shots on goal. It was in 2002 Salt Lake that Richter would have his best Olympic showing, having helped get them a Silver Medal. They would lose out 5-2 to Canada in the Gold Medal game, with Richter having faced 34 of 39 shots. He would start four of the Team’s six games and finished tied for first in tournament shutouts. It would, in fact, be Richter’s last tournament with Team USA before his retirement.

It was during the 1996 World Cup of hockey, Richter would win his first and only Gold Medal. The Americans would lose the first game in the best-of-three in Philadelphia but would quickly turn it around in Montreal, winning both games. In the decider, Richter would make a number of solid stops to keep the US firmly in the game. With the US down 2-1 with 3:18 left in the third period, the offense would cash in with three unanswered goals, putting the Canadians away for good 5-2.

Coming to the End

Thanks to his great performance in the game 3 victory, Richter would be awarded the Tournament MVP and prized Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. He finished the WC with a 5-1 record, 2.89 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

Richter would close out his international career, having started 32 games with 14 wins, three ties, and 3.24 goals-against average. In 2008, Richter would be inducted into the US Hockey Hall Of Fame, along with long-time Ranger and Team USA teammate Brian Leetch.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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