In the weeks ahead, many of the Blue Jackets will be scattered all over the globe, decompressing after the grind of an 82-game season.
Todd Richards is going right back to work, however, and his journey will take him to the Czech Republic and the IIHF World Hockey Championships.
USA Hockey announced Monday afternoon that Richards, who just completed his third season as full-time head coach of the Blue Jackets, will serve as coach of Team USA at the World Championships which officially began May 1 in Ostrava.
He will be assisted by former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma (whom Richards knows well and previously worked with during his time in the Pittsburgh organization) and Greg Carvel, coach of St. Lawrence University, who is making his coaching debut with USA Hockey.
Richards, who recently became the winningest coach in Blue Jackets history with this 126th win Friday night against Buffalo, said it was a no-brainer to accept USA Hockey’s offer — but he had to make one important call first.
“When I got the call the only thing I had to do was to check with my wife to make sure we didn’t have anything going on family-wise,” Richards said.
A native of Crystal, Minn. and a former star defenseman at the University of Minnesota, Richards is building a strong relationship with USA Hockey during his NHL coaching career. He served as an assistant coach under Bylsma at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and prior to that, was an assistant coach at the 2010 World Championships.
WATCH: Todd Richards on being appointed Team USA head coach
The 48-year-old has led the Blue Jackets to a 127-105-21 record (.543 win percentage) in 253 games behind the Jackets’ bench, with back-to-back 40-win seasons and three straight winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.
“It’s a great honor and a great privilege, it truly is,” Richards said. “The red white and blue, I know we have that here, but to have USA across the chest means a lot. And as a kid growing up in Minnesota, where USA Hockey played a big part of my life — a lot of you know I’m talking about the 1980 games — and just how it influenced me as a kid, my love for the sport and international hockey in particular…it just makes it special and unique and to be a part of it.”
In addition to Richards’ appointment as head coach, USA Hockey will have a heavy Blue Jackets influence on this year’s World Championships team.
Richards said Monday that forward Jeremy Morin (Auburn, N.Y.) will be on the U.S. roster, and the Jackets will also send the following support staff to the Czech Republic: video coach Dan Singleton, athletic trainer Mike Vogt and equipment manager Jamie Healy. Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito is part of USA Hockey’s management staff for the World Championships, as well.
“To be asked (to be head coach) means a lot to me for the history of it, and hopefully, for the future of it,” Richards said.