The Chicago Blackhawks officially named Luke Richardson as their 40th head coach on Monday. This Wednesday, Richardson sat down to his first press conference with the media. Ever since the news was leaked by numerous sources last weekend, Blackhawks fans have been trying to glean as much information as they can about the man who’s set to spearhead a difficult Blackhawk’s rebuild. Let’s dig into the press conference and other sources to obtain some further insight into the Blackhawk’s newest bench boss.
Praise From Former Teammates Eakins & Olcyck
Current Anaheim Ducks coach Dallas Eakins knows Richardson from way back. The two were good friends and played together for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes from 1985-87. Eakins was even a member of Richardson’s wedding party a few years later. Eakins gave some insight into what he believes the Blackhawks will get in their new head coach. (from ‘Why Richardson might be the right man to lead the Blackhawks back to the top’, The Daily Herald – 6/27/22)
He’s gonna have a very high level of patience. There’s gonna be a lot of inspiration, mixed in with accountability… That’s going to bode very well for the Blackhawks’ organization.
He also described why he thought Richardson has the fortitude for the difficult task of a rebuild.
These guys that played 20 years — you don’t do that by accident. You’ve got to be basically one of two things: You’ve either got to be a highly skilled, gifted player — or you’ve got to be a totally committed workaholic, detail-oriented player. That’s what Luke was.
He had to get everything done by hard work and commitment and by being accountable to himself. When you’ve gone through that as a person and as a coach, it just becomes part of your self culture.
Chicago’s very own Eddie Olczyk spoke recently on NBC Chicago’s show “Unfiltered With David Kaplan”. Olczyk and Richardson played together when the latter started his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987.
Olczyk referred to “Lukey” as the “ultimate teammate”. Regarding his place as part of a rebuild, Olczyk said Richardson will be a great “communicator and teacher”. He said the new coach “will appreciate what guys (the players) can do and understand what guys can’t do”.
It appears these two men who know their colleague well, and who also know a thing or two about hockey, believe Richardson will be a great fit in Chicago. Oh, and do you think the rest of us can get away with calling him Lukey?!
Insights From Players Richardson Coached
Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers of The Athletic recently published an article where they interviewed some of the players Richardson has formerly coached. Mike Kostka skated for the Binghamton Senators in 2015-16 season. After a lousy weekend of games, Coach Richardson put them through a dreaded bag skate at the next practice. But Richardson actually joined them. Said Kostka,
Luke skated us for probably 40 minutes, no puck. But he did every drill with us – every one. He bagged himself. Your coach is there in his tracksuit doing stops and starts for 40 minutes with you because he’s like, our failure is his failure, and I’m going to stand next to you. I don’t think it gets much better than that, like in terms of, this sucks, but we’re going to sit in the suck together.(from ‘Why Luke Richardson is the right coach for the Blackhawks’ rebuild’, The AthleticCHI – 6/27/22)
Chris Wideman, who also played for Richardson, shared a similar story of his coach joining his players on the ice.
Not only is he skating, he’s like, lapping guys, because he keep himself in such good shape. So he’s definitely a players coach, he’s in it with the players. He’s able to relate to the players because he’s been through it.
Wideman also discussed Richardson’s ability to keep players positive while also holding them accountable. He further elaborated that the coach was able to tap into a player’s specific talents and get the best out of them.
One more thing from Kostka about how Richardson treated the team like a family. This is him paraphrasing a speech Richardson gave at the beginning of the season at a team family gathering.
Hey, guys and girls, everyone who’s here, look, guys are gonna go up, go down, guys are gonna get hurt, we’re gonna go through a lot this year, as every season has its heartbeat on and off the ice. But we’re all here for each other and we’re family. Nothing is basically bigger than life, and the game will seem that way at times. But if anything is going one, we all got each other’s backs.
Blackhawks’ favorite former pest Andrew Shaw played for Richardson when he was an assistant coach for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2018-19 season. Being a former defenseman, Richardson handled the defensive aspects of the team; while we know Shaw was obviously a center/winger.
But the feisty forward gave some great perspective about what he saw from Richardson from both sides of the game.
From what I saw, our PK got better and I thought our defenseman, they played that strong, hard-nosed, hard-to-play-against style of hockey. He taught the young kids coming in how to how to defend and I thought that was huge for some of the younger defenseman coming in to be able to have a coach who’s played 1,400 plus games in the NHL, coached a bunch as well… Honestly, he was great to have. He was not quiet, but he just had that presence of, you know, people respected him. But he had fun with the guys too. He would joke around, which made the room a little lighter.
He’s gonna teach a structured game, but have that flexibility to be creative,” Shaw offered. “He was on the back end. He got to see his forwards be creative, and you need that but with that you need structure defensively especially and I think he’s going to grow the young prospects coming into Chicago because he’s done it time and time again.
The above all shows Richardson is a player’s coach. He understands them and can relate to them. He can build their trust, and help them be better players and people.
Finding Inner Strength Through Adversity
Richardson and his wife Stephanie have been through the excruciating pain no parent should ever have to endure. In November of 2010, they lost their daughter Daron to suicide. She was only 14 years old.
Related: Doing It For Daron – Canadiens’ Richardson Pays Tribute to Late Daughter
The couple and their daughter Morgan took strength from the overwhelming support they received at the time. More than 5000 people attended Daron’s memorial service.
They started the Do It For Daron (DIFD) movement, to spark conversations about mental health. The movement’s symbol is a purple heart, for Daron’s favorite color, and the motto is “we all skate together”. You can read much more about this movement, the money it’s raised and the lives it’s touched in the link above.
This is something that the Richardson’s will never forget, even though they must move on with their lives. Coach Richardson mentioned it in his introductory press conference on Wednesday.
Losing a child to suicide, Luke said the overwhelming support he received made the biggest impact.— Joe Brand (@Joe_Brand1) June 29, 2022
Because of that, he plans on making sure the players are heard and is pleased with how big of an emphasis the #Blackhawks are putting on mental health.
Considering his previous track record with players and his personal experience, I think it’s safe to say the Blackhawks’ players will be in good hands when it comes to their mental health and growth.
Richardson Speaks to His New Assignment
During his first press conference, Richardson spoke about the reality of the rebuild. He indicated things will obviously be difficult, and it will be an uphill battle. But he didn’t talk about losing, even though we all know there could be a lot of that. Instead, he stressed the fact that he coaches to win every game. He spread some optimism by saying he’s hopeful the rebuild doesn’t take as long as everyone might think.
“We want to be better today than we were yesterday and we want to better again tomorrow. That’s the philosophy that I take.” – Head Coach Luke Richardson pic.twitter.com/5VBB1tPk2D— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 29, 2022
Obviously there were some bigger name coaches available out there than Richardson. But they also may not have had the stomach to commit to a rebuild. This is a great opportunity for someone who’s been on the fringes as an assistant coach for so many years. Now Richardson has an chance to take responsibility for his own team as the head coach. Even if said team isn’t very good and doesn’t look to be very good for a while. But for Richardson, it’s all part of the challenge.
All in all, there’s a lot of optimism coming from the last few days and the introduction of a new head coach. There are encouraging reports coming from many outlets. It’s refreshing after such a difficult 2021-22 campaign, both on and off the ice. Dare I say, the future looks bright for the Blackhawks!
Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Quote to live by, “Follow your dreams, and good things will happen.” Wait, maybe it’s “Good things happen when you shoot the puck!” You get the idea.
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