Mike Richards of the Kitchener Rangers is wrapping up an impressive four-year junior career. Richards has won the Memorial Cup, gold and silver medals for Team Canada at the World Junior championships, and a bronze medal for Team Ontario at the under 17 tournament. He is regarded as one of the great leaders in the OHL and this was never more evident than when he was named captain of the gold medal winning Team Canada at the World Junior tournament, a team that had several players who were captains or assistant captains of their own respective club teams.
Richards is not big by professional standards at 5’11, but he has great hockey sense, is a good skater, an excellent passer and he doesn’t back down from anyone. The Philadelphia Flyers selected him in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Richards this weekend after a 6-3 victory over the Sarnia Sting.
HF: This was a Bobby Clarke type night, you had a high sticking penalty, got in a fight, scored the winning goal. Talk a bit about the game tonight.
MR: Well things didn’t go as well as we would have liked, we won, but could have played better.
HF: This was your fourth game back from your groin injury that kept you out for around a month, how is it feeling?
MR: It’s fine now, I took an extra week off to make sure but there are no problems with it.
HF: This was also your second game in a row on national TV on Sportsnet, so that must be a bit of an adjustment for you guys with the TV timeouts etc?
MR: It worked out OK for us on Sunday up in Ottawa as that was our third game in three days so it gave us some extra time to rest. Tonight it did disrupt our rhythm a little bit, but that is something you are going to have to deal with when you move on to higher levels of hockey.
HF: I mentioned Bobby Clarke a few moments ago, he paid you quite the compliment at the World Junior tournament during an interview on TSN when he compared you to Doug Gilmour.
MR: Anytime that you are mentioned in the same breath as Doug Gilmour, it is a thrill.
HF: How close were you to signing a contract with Philadelphia before the lockout?
MR: I’m not sure; I don’t think that there was a whole lot of talk.
HF: Given the current uncertainty in the NHL, have you discussed with your agent some of the different scenarios that might happen if you cannot be signed by Philadelphia because of the lockout?
MR: No we haven’t really discussed it, that is out of my control and I can only worry about things that I can control, like my play and we are focused on the playoffs coming up.
HF: You guys will be playing Erie in the first round of the playoffs. Will you be matched up against Geoff Platt who is closing in on 50 goals?
MR: I’m not sure what will unfold in that series. If I do play against him, we will have to be aware of him as he is very talented, which is why he has 40 plus goals.
HF: You were captain of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, and you came home with a gold, you won a silver medal the year before, you have a gold medal from the under 18 tournament and a bronze with Team Ontario in the under 17 tournament. Where do you keep all these medals?
MR: They are all at home with my Memorial Cup ring as well.
HF: The Memorial cup run must have been pretty special and you played such a big part in it playing on a line with Petr Kanko and you were a Memorial Cup All-Star.
MR: It was definitely a special year. We had a great team and it was basically the same team from the start of the year to the finish and after losing out in the first round four straight in my first year, it was rewarding to go on a run like that. Hopefully with the guys that we have we can do it again. It would be a great way to end my junior career.
HF: Sometime soon you will play your last game here at the Aud in Kitchener, how does that make you feel?
MR: It has been a great time here, but it is time to move onto new challenges.
HF: How big of a transition was it coming from midget hockey to play in the OHL and making such a big move from Kenora to Kitchener as a 16-year-old?
MR: When you are living in Kenora and you want to move on to a higher level of hockey you know that you have to leave, and going to a first class organization like Kitchener made it much easier. We have a great facility, great coaching staff, our fans are among the best in the league, there is all kinds of support and my billets were great to me.
HF: How about education, did you find it hard to keep up with school with the busy schedule that you have in the OHL and all the time on the bus?
MR: It is definitely a challenge and our coaches Peter Deboer and Steve Spott really emphasize the importance of getting your education and it is something that takes some prioritizing with all the time that we spend at the rink, but there is a lot of support for us to get it done.
HF: At some point down the road in the near future you will be earning a NHL check, any big purchases in mind, guys your age it is usually a new car?
MR: No, nothing in line right now, a flashy car just wouldn’t look right in Kenora.
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