Friday, October 28, 2011
After playing for the United States at the 1985 World Junior Tournament, Mike Richter was drafted 28th overall by the New York Rangers before he began his college career at the University of Wisconsin for the 1985-86 season, after which he was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year.
That same season his international experience grew with appearances at both the World Juniors and the World Championships. He returned to Wisconsin for another season in 1986-87 which was followed up with another trip to the World Championships.
His 1987-88 season began as a member of the United States National Team in preparation for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. At the conclusion of the games, Richter joined the Colorado Rangers of the IHL for the remainder of the season, as well as all of the following 1988-89 season, during which the name of the club was changed to the Denver Rangers.
He made his NHL debut on October 19th, 1989 as a member of the New York Rangers. He made 23 appearances for the blueshirts as well as seeing action in 13 games for the Flint Spirits of the IHL.
He spent the entire 1990-91 season in New York, splitting time with his goaltending partner John Vanbiesbrouck, going 21-13-7. Prior to the start of the next NHL season, Richter was the number one goaltender for the United States team at the 1991 Canada Cup tournament. He again divided the playing time down the middle with Vanbiesbrouck for the 1991-92 Rangers, who captured the President's Trophy for having the league's best record.
Richter and goaltending partner John Vanbiesbrouck
The 1992-93 season for the Rangers was one of disappointment, as they failed to qualify for the playoffs. Richter also suffered an injury which limited him to 38 games and saw him return to the minors when he spent 5 games with the Binghamton Rangers of the AHL on a rehab assignment. With the Rangers out of the playoffs, Richter was able to return to the World Championships for the first time in six years for the United States.
Prior to the 1993-94 season, the NHL expanded by adding two clubs, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Florida Panthers. As part of the rules of the expansion draft, existing clubs could only protect one goaltender, and the Rangers elected to keep Richter, as Vanbiesbrouck would be traded away.
Now the clear number one goaltender, Richter's games played shot up from a previous high of 45 to 68, which allowed him to set a career best record of 42-12-6. Despite not having any player in the top 20 in scoring, and in fact were led in scoring by a defenseman, Sergei Zubov, the Rangers shot back up the standings to once more claim the President's Trophy with 112 points, a 33 point improvement over the previous year. During the postseason, the Rangers swept the New York Islanders in four, eliminated the Washington Capitals in five and survived a dramatic seven game series over the New Jersey Devils before taking a 3 games to 1 lead over the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks came back to force a Game 7, which the Rangers won by a score of 3-2 to win a memorable Stanley Cup, the Rangers first since 1940.
If that weren't enough, Richter was also named to the second NHL All-Star Game of his career that season and was named the game's MVP on home ice in Madison Square Garden.
After the strike-shortended 1994-95 season, groin problems caused Richter to miss 23 games over two separate occasions during the 1995-96 season, which cut his games played back to 41. Richter showed he was fully healed prior to the 1996-97 campaign by leading the United States to it's greatest hockey triumph since 1980 as the US won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey in a hard fought three game final over Canada. Richter's outstanding play earned him the tournament MVP award to go with his gold medal.
He saw action in 61 games that season and won 33 of them, one of two seasons with 30 wins or more for his career. His workload with the Rangers reached an all-time high when he took to the ice 72 times in 1997-98. During that season, the NHL took a break from it's schedule for the first time ever, which allowed Richter and the other stars of the NHL to participate in the Olympics for the first time ever. As if his workload wasn't enough with the Rangers, Richter now travelled to Japan and played an additional four games for the United States.
For the 1998-99 season, he played in 68 games, followed by 61 the following season. On January 8, 2001, Richter set the all-time Rangers record for games played with 598, and ten days later became the winningest goaltender in franchise history with his 267th win following a 2-1 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
During the 2001-02 season, Richter again led the Rangers goalies in games played with 55 and totaled 24 wins, his seventh season with 20 or more wins. He also made his final international appearance for the United States, earning a silver medal on home ice at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
He played in 13 games of the 2002-03 season, which included his becoming the first Ranger goaltender to reach 300 wins on this date in 2002 when Petr Nedved scored at 2:20 of overtime in a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. His career came to a premature end when he suffered a skull fracture and concussion, which necessitated his retirement.
"I was hoping to get it earlier in my career. A couple of injuries the last few years and not as many wins as we wanted was a disappointment. But I'm glad I've been able to stay with this organization long enough to set it with one team. It's really a temporary thing," Richter said. "It's something you'll dwell on a little bit more after your career is done. There has been a lot of great teams and a lot of great players that I have been associated with. For me, it's a great thing we got 300, but nothing is more important to me than 301."
He did get win #301, as his final career totals stand at 301 wins and 24 shutouts in 666 games, a Stanley Cup, a World Cup and an Olympic Silver Medal. He still holds the Rangers goaltending records for games played, wins, single season appearances and wins.
Following his career, his #35 jersey was retired by the Rangers in 2004 and he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.
Today's featured jersey is a 1993-94 New York Rangers Mike Richter jersey as worn during that magic season when Richter was the MVP of the NHL All-Star Game and went on to win the Stanley Cup, ending the Rangers 54 year wait. This particular jersey has the 1994 NHL All-Star Game patch on the right shoulder, the customary position for additional patches on Rangers jerseys, as the diagonal cresting fills the customary spot on the upper right chest where most teams wear extra patches.
This year is naturally more closely associated with the Stanley Cup championship, and for the finals, the All-Star Game patch was replaced by the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals patch, the smallest version of the finals patch ever worn in deference to it's location on the shoulder of the Rangers jersey.
This style Rangers jersey can be traced back to the club's origins in 1926, although there has been some evolution in fonts, as well as a couple of ill-fated attempts to adopt a new style, the blue jersey with the team name diagonally across the front has been in use now for all but three of the club's 86 years.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 Team USA Mike Richter jersey as worn in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey as Richter was named the tournament MVP as the Americans won the gold medal. This short-lived "waving flag" style is very sought after by collectors and was only sold at retail in the home white version, making the blue ones very desirable, as they were only produced for use by the team itself, obviously making for an extremely limited supply.
Today's video segment is an excellent tribute to Mike Richter.
Next, is Richter in a commercial for ESPN.
Here, Richter becomes the all-time Rangers leader in wins following a dramatic overtime goal by Brian Leetch.
Finally, another commercial featuring Richter, this one for Wendy's hamburgers.