One on one with Todd Richards - part three
AUG 12, 2013 11:39a ET
This is the final segment of our three part series with Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards.
With the specter of last seasons’ lockout firmly in the rear-view mirror, the NHL is gearing up for a full season with another break in February of 2014 along the Black Sea coast for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. With a few players from the Blue Jackets being asked to play for their national teams, head coach Todd Richards is going over, too. On July 23rd, 2013, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards was named to Team USA’s coaching staff. How will this break in the season impact the way that Todd Richards coaches the Blue Jackets, especially if they are on a run reminiscent of last year?
“It won’t affect my coaching at all,” he said. “I get paid to coach this team. And, that’s what I’ll do. To get our guys playing the right way, from effort to systems to structure to whatever it is… that’s my job. So, I have to take care of that. The bonus and the extra thing that comes is in February, when we go on break here, I can shut this off for a little bit and focus on the USA thing.”
“I’m not the only one. Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh (Penguins) has got to do it, Peter (Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers) and all of the Canadian coaches, too. There are probably about a dozen coaches that are going to go through the same thing that I am. First and foremost, is to take care of our team here. Once we hit that break, then we can focus on the Olympics.”
Coaching on the international level is not new to Todd Richards. He was an assistant coach with Team USA at the 2010 IIHF World Championships. What does this mean to him to be tasked with coaching Team USA in the Olympics?
“I’m very humbled by it,” said Richards, “to be honest with you. To me, the Olympics is an historical event. The reason why I say historical is not that it’s like other things that have happened in our history. I look at it as, growing up, every four years you kind of stop what you’re doing and you watch the Olympics.”
“Whether it’s the Summer Olympics or the Winter Olympics, it’s on all day and you’re usually watching it, flipping channels here and there. But, it’s a special event that brings the whole world together. Again, to be a part of it, along with my roots growing up in Minnesota watching hockey and being a part of the Olympic steps there.”
“I didn’t make it (Olympic hockey team) as a player,” he goes on. “I was close, but didn’t make it. Sometimes, you wonder if that avenue and that road has passed you by. It’s nice to have an opportunity now, as a coach, to go in and be a part of it.”
He fondly remembers the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team and what he was doing when they became the “feel good” story of that Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
“I remember,” he said. “I remember coming home from school, because I think it was an afternoon game against the Russians. I remember turning on my little radio in my room, sitting down and listening to the third period. And, the replay was on that night. I remember watching that.”
“I think it was Jim McKay was working the desk. I believe it was him. At least, that’s the way that I remember it. And then, I remember watching the game against Finland (1980 gold medal game). Most people don’t remember that it was the game against Finland that was the clinching game (to secure the gold medal). Everyone associates winning the gold medal with beating the Russians. But, they still had to beat the Finns.”
“I was about thirteen years old, at the time of the 1980 Olympics. At that stage of your life, hockey was a big part of my life. But, that’s something, of that magnitude… not only what it did for hockey, but when you’re thirteen, you don’t realize what’s going on in the world. But, what it really did for our nation.”
“I know that times are much different now, but even going back to the last Olympics in Vancouver. I remember sitting in my living room with both of my parents, my kids, my wife, my sisters, my brother-in-laws, there had to have been twenty people there watching that gold medal game against Canada. And, it was a great game. It was a great hockey game to watch.”
He goes on, “You’re all cheering. At the time, I was coaching the Minnesota Wild and it didn’t matter if Ryan Miller was the goalie and you were playing against him. You wanted Ryan Miller to win. You wanted to see him do well. Because, you were all part of one thing, it was playing for the Americans and representing the United States.”
We concluded our conversation with what is the next step in the “brick by brick” process for the Columbus Blue Jackets?
“I still think that’s there’s a lot more bricks that we have to add,” he said. “By brick, I don’t mean a player. But, I think it’s how we do things. It’s all from scouting to drafting to training our players. It’s getting them ready and prepared. It’s creating the culture and environment that, bottom line, is about winning. And, we’re getting the results from that.”
“There are a lot of positives from last year, a lot of positives. A lot of bricks were laid. But, the thing I took from it was that we weren’t good enough. We finished great, but to me, it was a glaring problem that we weren’t ready from the start. So now, the emphasis is on let’s be ready to start.”
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