'Gades camp 'fantasy' for NHLer

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

It appears the Renegades are contemplating the addition of a big-name, high-priced player.

Only the name is most familiar in hockey circles, and it's unlikely team equipment manager Greg Batty will ever be asked to stitch it on the back of a game jersey.

Yesterday, GM/coach Joe Paopao received a call from 17-year NHL veteran Luke Richardson, an Ottawa native who is now a member of the idle Columbus Blue Jackets. Richardson, a Renegades season ticket holder and big fan of the team, left a message congratulating Paopao on being rehired. He also said that he'd been training with members of the Ohio State Buckeyes football squad, and half-seriously asked if he could practise with the Renegades when he returned to his Ottawa home in June.

"I told him, just joking around, that I wanted to try out for the team," Richardson, who turned 36 this week, said yesterday from Columbus. "I told him I started working out with Ohio State seniors, after they called off our season, and I told him that maybe I could come out and practise (with the Renegades) to keep myself in shape.

"I'm desperately trying to stay in shape."

Paopao, never one to leave stones unturned, was at least mildly intrigued by the possibility. Before he had a chance to return the call, he casually questioned hockey writers about Richardson's toughness and was told the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder had an abundance of it. Chuckling, he also pointed out that Richardson would qualify as a non-import.

"Hey, we're interested in anybody," Paopao said. "You just never know ..."

Working against Richardson hugely is the fact he can't even remember when he last played football. He wanted to join the Fisher Park high school team primarily because that's who his dad, Glen, played for as a kid. But Luke was a blossoming member of the Jr. B Ottawa West Golden Knights and unable to commit to another extra sport.

LINEBACKER RIGHT FIT?

Richardson figures his defensive instincts and lack of a cornerback's quickness would best lend themselves to him playing an outside linebacker position now.

Asked if he'd consider a career switch should he impress the Renegades coaching staff, Richardson replied: "I don't think so. If I was 25, I might. I don't think I have the ability to make that team. It would almost be like attending a fantasy camp for me.

"I've just been working out with those college guys, and it's been unbelievable. They weigh 290 pounds and beat me in the 40-yard sprint. It's really fun to be around them. They've really helped me."

Richardson also works out with a famous neighbour and friend -- former NFL middle linebacker Chris Spielman, an ex-Buckeye who's now the coach of the Arena Football League's Columbus Destroyers.

Meanwhile, Richardson isn't ready to hang up his blades, although he does admit it'll be just as difficult to get prepared mentally as it will physically to be an NHLer after such a long layoff.

"The realism is, a lot of guys my age and up won't play again unless (the CBA dispute) is settled soon," said Richardson, who has an impressive 1,247 NHL games under his belt.

"Everybody's hopeful it gets worked out."


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