Richards set for New York debut

Rangers forward Brad Richards skates during the warmup before playing against the Flames at the...

Rangers forward Brad Richards skates during the warmup before playing against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 20, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)


, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

NEW YORK - He has played for and won a Stanley Cup and has been in the Olympics, but Brad Richards knows heís about to experience a different kind of excitement.

Finally on the verge of making his long-awaited home debut as a Broadway Blueshirt, the veteran centre says he knows what heís getting into, a big reason why he signed the nine-year, $60-million US deal with the team on July 1.

ďThis will have a different feel for 41 games than what Iím used to for home games,Ē Richards said Thursday as he was the toast of a jammed Rangers dressing room, redone from top to bottom as part of the Madison Square Garden makeover. ďIt will be a great experience in my life and my career. I canít wait to start.Ē

Nor can the fans, weíre guessing.

Since signing the deal, ending a bizarre free-agent courtship from several teams, including the Maple Leafs, the anticipation of his impact on the Rangers has been building. Though he has struggled at times on the teamís seven-game road trip to open the season, the Rangers feel Richards is ready to handle the lead role in a market that can be hard on its star players.

ďThatís why he wanted to come here,Ē Rangers coach John Tortorella said of the 31-year-old star. ďHe wants that challenge and everything that comes with the city. Itís a great city, itís a great sports town. There are different pressures here and accountability that comes when you come into a market like this. But thatís why Brad Richards is Brad Richards. He wanted this. And thatís why we want him.

ďThis is a great situation. I donít worry about him. I think heís going to settle other players down.Ē

The Rangers survived that road journey to Sweden plus three Western Canadian provinces with a solid 3-2-2 record. Now they begin a six-game homestand they hope will set them up to be a force in the Eastern Conference.

Richards, for one, canít wait to get on with the show that can be one of the great home rinks in the league.

ďItís a great feeling when you have a fan base that gets behind you like that,Ē Richards said. ďIt makes you feel a little bigger, a little faster. You know what kind of fans New Yorkers are in general for their sports teams. I just canít wait to be on the ice with them behind me, putting on the jersey and getting out there.

ďThereís a lot of history here and Iím honoured to be a part of it.Ē