Meet coach Richardson

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. -- When Luke Richardson left Scotiabank Place yesterday, it was with his head held high as a proud and retiring player.

When he returns next week, it will be as an assistant coach with long-term goals.

Asked whether that's as a coach or manager, Richardson said: "You'd love to be able to build a team as a GM, but at this point, having a little taste of coaching in Tampa (2006-07) and helping out here, coaching is the way you want to go.

"From a player (perspective), you want to be involved on the ice and on the bench. It's the closest thing to playing, because you're in control somewhat. It is tough watching from upstairs as GMs do. It's very frustrating when you're not hands on," added Richardson, who cleared waivers and will officially hang up the blades when the paperwork goes through league offices next week.

"As a player, I think your next step is naturally to be a coach. I think I have that fire. I love to be an assistant coach and help out, but someday I want to be a head coach. Control that team, and the direction of the team, and make players better, and make players want to win and be successful.

"And every moment, from this point forward, I can feel it growing already."

Other 19 others have played more NHL games than the 1,417 the hard-nosed defenceman from Ottawa skated in over 21 years.

The numbers leave Alexandre Picard shaking his head in amazement.

"That's just crazy," the 23-year-old Senators defenceman said. "I've just played my 100th game and I'm already hurting all over."

Fellow Ottawan Brendan Bell has looked up to Richardson since he was a little kid.

"Luke is the consummate pro," said Bell, who is positioning himself as a regular on the Senators' blue line. "I've known him for a long time. I was an Ottawa West Golden Knight (in the Eastern Ontario Jr. B Hockey League) and he was kind of THE Ottawa West Golden Knight. They had him up on the wall (at Barbara Ann Scott Arena), his old man was at the rink. Now we're neighbours, teammates and friends.

"Whether it's a guy like myself, or a young guy like Cody Bass or a guy like Jason Spezza. (Richardson's) got a lot of wisdom to impart, he's a very useful part of this team."

'GREAT WARRIOR'

Senators coach Craig Hartsburg praised Richardson as "a warrior and a great person in this league for a long time."

Hartsburg knows the young defenceman in the Senators' system -- Picard, Bell, Brian Lee, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Ben Blood, Eric Gryba -- will benefit greatly from Big Luke's expertise.

Richardson admitted to feeling "weird," now that the routine he has known for so long is over.

"I don't know if you ever are (ready to retire)," he said. "You wake up this morning, and you're always on a routine or a schedule ... today is kind of like the first day after the season. Every hockey player feels lost for awhile.

"It's still a little bit weird, coming to the rink and not sure where you fit in or where you go, but I think I'm comfortable enough after 1,400 games, you should feel comfortable no matter where you go in the rink."

Richardson's highlights include being drafted by the Maple Leafs as an Ontario boy who grew up watching them, playing alongside childhood hero Borje Salming, and participating in two world championships.

"(But) every playoff game, every game you play in this league is a highlight ... It's something you take for granted a lot through your career, but the older you get you realize how precious it is.

"Unfortunately, I never got to the end of the playoffs, but I've had some good runs."


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