How long has Brad Richards been in the NHL?
His first career game ended in a tie.
“Back when there was ties,” Richards said.
That was Oct. 6, 2000, when his Tampa Bay Lightning played the New York Islanders to a 3-3 draw. Before that game, Richards remembers taking pictures with his family in his rented downtown apartment. Richards did that again on Sunday, in downtown Chicago, as he headed out for his 1,000th career game.
“We just did the same thing,” Richards said. “But now there’s my niece and my sister and my wife and my son in the pictures, too. It’s just crazy how things change. There are so many people to thank.”
In his 999 previous games, Richards scored 279 goals and handed out 597 assists, winning a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy with Tampa Bay in 2004. At just 34, he’s young to be hitting the 1,000-game mark. He missed just two games total through his first six seasons, and played a full 82 again in 2011-12 and 2013-14 with the Rangers. He credited the modern-day focus on nutrition and fitness for helping him get through his first 13-plus seasons relatively unscathed.
“I feel like there’s lots of hockey left,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m going to stop anytime soon, so that’s very exciting. But it’s still a pretty neat accomplishment.”
Richards made his big day even better by chipping in two assists, including one on Patrick Kane’s go-ahead goal in the third period.
“It was great,” he said. “It was a fun game to be involved in, obviously with what happened personally but then how the team responded to a little adversity there early, which I think was a good sign. Maybe we’ve been going the other way a little bit, so we responded good, came out and stayed patient and took over the game.”
He’s come a long way since his debut 14 years ago in Tampa. But with a pregame ceremony during which he received a silver stick from Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, and with his 2-month-old son Luca making his own NHL debut of sorts at the United Center, he almost felt like a rookie again.
“It goes by so quickly, but this morning, waking up, I feel just as nervous or more nervous than I did that day,” he said. “It’s kind of special.”
Antti Raanta was sent down to Rockford late Saturday night so he could play in Sunday night’s IceHogs game and shake off the rust before rejoining the Hawks for the upcoming circus trip. Raanta hadn’t played since Oct. 25. He made 33 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Texas Stars.
Scott Darling backed up Corey Crawford on Sunday. Raanta is 1-2 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .933 save percentage this season.
Joakim Nordstrom, recalled when Peter Regin was sent down on Saturday, made his season debut against Dallas, replacing Jeremy Morin in the lineup. Nordstrom played on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith.
“Nordy gives us some speed,” Joel Quenneville said. “That line is more of a checking role, and energy, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Hawks play-by-play man Pat Foley will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.
“I hope it doesn’t get too emotional,” the 60-year-old Foley said. “It might. But I’m not summarizing a career here. I’m on the back nine, but I think I have some mileage left.”