Richmond hopes to help hometown Hawks

By Colleen Greene

Kids usually grow up rooting for their hometown hockey team, in fact it’s usually a huge a motivational factor for players to make it to the NHL.

However, it’s not terribly common that a player ends up actually playing for the team they cheered for as a kid. By the time a player gets close enough to realize their childhood dream of playing professional hockey, they tend to be happy playing for whichever team ends up signing them.

So, when defenseman Danny Richmond, a Chicago native, found out he had been traded from the Carolina Hurricanes organization to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Anton Babchuk last Friday, it’s safe to say he was thrilled about the opportunity, despite being caught off guard when he heard the news.

“Yeah, it surprised me a little bit,” Richmond told Hockey’s Future after his first game for the organization’s AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, a 4-3 shootout win against the Philadelphia Phantoms on January 22nd. “I didn’t really see it coming, but I’m happy to be able to potentially play for my hometown team. I grew up in Chicago, so it’s real exciting – something I’ve always dreamed about as a kid.”

Richmond is happy to be given the chance to play in Chicago, hopefully in the near future, but, at least for the time being, the blueliner will log most of his minutes for the Admirals. And given the amount of young and developing talent in Chicago’s system, particularly on the blue line, the 6’0, 185-pounder will have to earn his spot.

With Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith already suiting up for the Hawks, and Michal Barinka, Dustin Byfuglien, and James Wisniewski starting promising professional careers, Richmond will have to work hard to eventually find ice time in Chicago. But he’ll be given every opportunity to succeed in Norfolk, as Admirals head coach Mike Haviland likes what the smaller defenseman brings to his team.

“I expect him to be an offensive type of guy,” he said. “He comes in, he skates very well, and he’s a smart player. He’s going to need to be a power play guy for us. We haven’t had a left-handed defenseman yet this year to run the power play on the back end, so I’m excited about that. He’s a tough kid, he’s in his second year pro, and he’s excited to be here. He’s a Chicago kid, and he just got picked up by Chicago, so he’s real excited and certainly we are excited to have him.”

While the prospect of playing for the Blackhawks brings a smile to his face practically every time he’s asked about it, this trade has its share of positives and negatives for Richmond.

For one, the rearguard was starting to see some decent playing time up with the Hurricanes at the time he was dealt, and now, at least for the foreseeable future, he will be playing for the Admirals.

On the flip side of the situation, the Admirals (48 points, third place in the East Division) are a bit more competitive than the Hurricanes AHL affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters (44 points, fifth place in the Atlantic Division), the team Richmond spent all of last season, and a majority of this season skating for.

The fact that he’s suiting up in the AHL somewhat removes the 2006 All-Star defenseman from the situations the parent clubs of the two organizations are in. While the Hawks are struggling near the bottom of the NHL standings, the Hurricanes were roaring through the league at the time of the trade. It was a situation that was tough for the 21-year-old to leave, but one he was glad to be a part of.

“Oh, it was great,” he said of his time spent with the high-flying Hurricanes. “They had a great group of guys there and the reaction from the organization was really positive and it was great to be there. The atmosphere in the room was great and the guys took care of me pretty well up there.

“It’s always great walking into the room when you’re first in the league,” he added.

Talking to the laid back Richmond, you get the sense that he won’t have much trouble adjusting to his new surroundings after leaving the only professional organization he’s ever known. Originally drafted in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft (31st overall), Richmond was excited to embark on a pro career in Carolina.

“My dad was a scout – he still is a scout with Washington – so, I kind of had an idea as to where I was going to go,” he said of his draft ranking. “But, he taught me that what organization you go to is more important than what number you go. So, I thought I was a good fit in the Carolina organization, and I was very happy that they picked me there.”

Danny’s father, Steve Richmond, had an influence on his son’s career that reaches far beyond his draft day advice. Steve played nine seasons in the NHL, allowing Danny a close-up look at life as an NHL player at a very young age. He liked what he saw, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that he wanted to follow his father’s footsteps into the NHL.

“That was great,” he said. “I mean, I wanted to play ever since I was a kid. I remember running around the rinks when I was little when he was playing pro. Being in the NHL and being around the room and around the guys was just something I wanted to be a part of. It’s been on my mind ever since I was a little kid, so to be a part of it now is pretty awesome.”

Steve played for the Rangers, Devils, Red Wings, and Kings over the course of his career, but never for the hometown Hawks.

“He never got the chance,” Danny said. “But we’re both Chicago natives, so we’re both pretty excited about this.”

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.