Life at Chateau Luke

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- Many years ago, the favour was given to Luke Richardson.

As a young player needing a home when he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fall of 1987, Richardson was welcomed in by a family with open arms to help him make the transition to adult.

"I was gonna live with Todd Gill, another young player, and the general manager grabbed me by the collar, put me against the wall and said, 'You're living with a family. Find one,' " Richardson recalled. "Somebody wrote about it in the paper and a guy phoned in, a fan.

"It was great, he was a lawyer and had some repossession stuff in the basement, ping pong table, video games, all that stuff. They were a great family and really helped me."

Now, Richardson is the mentor, around to guide the Columbus Blue Jackets latest crown jewel -- 18-year-old, first-round draft choice Gilbert Brule. Brule plans this weekend to move out of the hotel he's been calling home and into the Richardson home.

"I've seen a lot of good and bad in the game over the years and it definitely is good to pass some of that guidance along," said Richardson, who also welcomed a teenage Jason Arnott into his house back in Edmonton. "I went through it as a young guy and it's a big change. The less hard lessons he has to learn, if I can take one of them away from him off the ice, it adds to him on the ice.

"It's a family atmosphere and I think it's important for a young guy to have."

Especially with what Brule is capable of adding to the Blue Jackets quest for the franchise's first playoff berth.

Chosen sixth overall in this year's draft, the 5-ft. 10-in., 180-lb. Vancouverite made the club out of training camp and even collected his first NHL point, an assist, in his team's season opener.

He's already earned the respect of his more veteran teammates.

"I like what I've seen. He's a very quiet, respectful kid but when he plays, he plays hard." Richardson said.

"He was feeling things out at the beginning of training camp and as things went on, you really saw the ability for him to play the game at this level."

Still, the centre who collected 39 goals and 87 points last season with the Vancouver Giants, knows there's plenty of adjustments to make.

"Getting a few pre-season games definitely helped," Brule said. "Over the course of the camp, I got more confidence and more comfortable and adjusted more to the speed of the game.

"It's so limited out there. You've got to make plays so quickly and things happen so fast, it's unbelievable compared to junior."

Plus, there's the noticeable differences off the ice.

"We have our own jet and got to Washington in one hour," he said. "And we stayed in the Ritz Carleton, it's a lot nicer than the Sandman."

Despite his early success, there's no guarantees Brule will stick with the big club. A teen who must be sent to the WHL's Vancouver Giants if he's not with Columbus, he can be reassigned without it counting as a year of service as long as he doesn't play more than 10 NHL games.

It's a possibility Brule accepts but vows to prevent by maintaining the aggressive approach that helped him reach the next level.

"I don't think you can come into a camp and expect to make a team if you hold back and not do what got you there," he said. "I just do what I do, that's the reason I got drafted."

Actually, his teammates already know he's capable of even more.

Richardson, upon finding out his team had chosen Brule in the draft, put in a call to former teammate Bill Ranford, the Giants goaltender coach, to get the low down.

"He said he's a great talent and the hardest 180 pounds you'll ever play against and he certainly is. He throws his weight around a bit and is really solid driving to the net with a lot of speed and talent," Richardson said.

"We haven't seen the best of that, I think he's still feeling his way around but I heard he doesn't make any friends out there, a little Bobby Clarke style, and that's what we need."


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