NHL

FISCHLER: About Mike Richter . . .

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There are many things I will never forget about .
  • Like his first (playoff) game against and the at Madison Square Garden.
  • Like his performance in Game 6 of the 1994 -Rangers playoff at the Meadowlands.
  • Like the Saturday morning in July 1993 when he visited my terribly ailing son, Simon, in the hospital. And that¿s just for starters. as special a Ranger as any I¿ve known; and I¿m talking about 50 years of knowing Blueshirts. He was one of those precious few players who simply could not be disliked. As a player and as a person. Let¿s first talk about Richter, the goalie. He was the best netminder in history. Period. Only Hall of Famer Charlie Rayner came close. But Charlie never won a Stanley Cup, although he came awfully close in 1949-50. Davey Kerr, who won the 1940 Cup, was good but he didn¿t put in enough years to qualify. Eddie Giacomin competed hard but never delivered in the clutch a la Richter. And, really, that¿s all there is to it. Plus, — though hailing from Pennsylvania — was a New York-guy, through and through. He got himself an apartment in the West 80¿s; he went to Columbia University and he rode the subways. What more could you ask of a Big Apple athlete? For a moment I was pressed to pinpoint precisely what made Mike so likeable a personality. Then it came to me. One night I brought a blind woman, Jane Lang, to a -Calgary game. We were doing a feature on Jane for MSG Network and brought her down to the dressing room corridor after the overtime win. I called Mike over to meet Jane. He didn¿t know her from a hole in the wall but treated Lang like a long lost cousin. Feeling Richter¿s face with her sensitive hands, Jane said, ¿Oh, I can tell you are a very special person.¿ Mike gave her a kiss and the deadpanned, ¿Don¿t tell me Stan actually paid for those tickets of yours!¿ That was Richter; serious when he had to be but always good for a laugh. To media folks like me, he was a dream-come-true; articulate, insightful, honest-to-the-core and — very important — always available. In all the years covering Richter, I cannot recall him ever stiffing a member of the press. Most of all though, Mike was paid to play goal. And when he was thrust into that first game in 1989 against Pittsburgh, Richter lost the match but made an impression with peripatetic moves that defied one¿s vision. It was a portent of things — as in arresting saves — to come. Some ¿ fans will single out the 1994 Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver as the high-point of Richter¿s virtuosity. The penalty-shot save on ; Mike¿s steadfast play in Game 7, just to name a couple of highlights. For me, though, it was Richter in Game 6 at New Jersey that defined his significance to the . A win would have ended the series. And for a time, it looked like New Jersey¿s day. A pair of goals put the Devs ahead 2-0 and it appeared to many that a third Jersey tally would nail New York¿s playoff coffin. But over and over and over again Mike did his version of Horatio at the Bridge, thwarting the home club until relieved the pressure with a late second period goal. After that, took over, made good on his vow and, as everyone knows, the won Game 7 and the series. But what everyone seems to have forgotten in the maelstrom of Messier mania was that none of it would have been possible without the earlier Richter heroics. So, now he is retiring, which is as sad as any news because, age-wise, Mike still was in his prime. To me it is twice sad because of what Richter means to our family. This was the summer of 1993. My son, Simon, was in Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, suffering from a debilitating heart ailment. His days would be numbered if Simon failed to receive a heart transplant. In the depths of our despond, my wife, Shirley, myself and Simon were cheered on a Saturday morning when, Richter — along with Mike Keenan — showed up in the 14-year-old kid¿s room. We can never be sure precisely what the visit meant to Simon¿s health. But we do know that early that August, he did get his new heart. We also know that, as usual, made the save when it counted. Known as "The Hockey Maven" in both local and national circles, Stan Fischler is one of the most outspoken authorities on the game of hockey. Fischler can be seen offering NHL analysis on "MSG SportsDesk" and on Fox Sports Net's "Regional Sports Report — New York Edition." Fischler also provides studio interviews and pre- and post-game features and reports for both the and on FSN. His columns appear regularly on MSGNetwork.com.
  • Tagged: Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, Sharks

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