GLENDALE -- Coyotes center Brad Richardson doesn't like to remember what happened to him last November when he suffered a serious leg injury in a game at the Vancouver Canucks.
That being said, he sometimes can't help recall the look of horror on a fan's face as he lay on the ice, writhing in pain with a fractured fibula and tibia.
"When I think about that night it's hard," Richardson said Thursday after an informal skating session with a handful of other players at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. "I kind of get hot and sweaty when I do because the pain was so unbelievable. When it happened I knew it was really bad right away. I could feel my leg snap. But I can still see that fan in the crowd and see his face vividly. His expression was like 'Oh my God!' and I remember thinking 'Oh boy, I'm in trouble.' Even though I knew it was pretty bad, that fan's face summed up just how bad it really was."
Richardson underwent surgery in Vancouver the day after his injury. Fast forward nine months and Richardson can't wait to get back on the ice in an NHL game. He tried to return to the Coyotes lineup late last season, but his body simply wouldn't allow it. He opted to have a second surgery in late March to "clean up some things" inside his leg.
"I wanted to play at the end of last year and I tried to come back, but there was just too much pain," Richardson said. "I tried to push through and some days I thought 'OK, maybe I'll play by this weekend or next week,' and then the next day I'd come in and I was so sore I could barely walk. It just wasn't worth the risk of further injury. It was tough to swallow because that was my goal, to get back and play at least a game or two. I did everything I could. It just didn't happen."
He added: "When you have an injury like I did, your leg is sore after working out, but then that heals and other parts of your body get thrown off - your back gets sore or your hips are out of alignment. So, it's just a lot of work trying to get everything to work together again. It's a constant battle to make your body feel good again and get back up to speed."
Richardson has been in Arizona for most of the off-season and he feels he's extremely close to being 100 percent healthy, this after basically having to learn how to walk again.
"If training camp started tomorrow I'd be out there," he said. "I feel night-and-day different than I did four months ago. I probably need a little more time on the ice and some reps, but I'm feeling really good and I'm ready to go. The hardest thing was trying to get my leg strong and to fire again and be normal. I put a lot of hours in doing that. Realistically it might take me a little bit of time just to get back in and feel confident, but I think it's going to happen. I want to get better and I'm planning on it. I've put the work in to get better."
Luckily, Richardson has another month to get even more prepared for his 13th NHL season.
The Coyotes will be counting on Richardson to help lead a young team. After all, at age 32 he's now the oldest player on the roster.
"I did notice that recently and I'm not too excited about that," Richardson said with a smile. "I don't feel old in any sense of the word. I believe I have a lot of years left in my career, but yes, right now I'm the oldest guy on the team. It is what it is. We have a very young team so we're going to need a bunch of the older guys to lead by example. I'll just fit in and do what I can in that aspect."
Richardson has spoken to new Head Coach Rick Tocchet and he's embracing the numerous changes the Coyotes have made in the off-season.
"It's going to be different, that's for sure, but I'm excited," Richardson said. "I think we're at that point where you have to try something different if you're not making the playoffs every year. I don't know Rick very well, but everyone I've talked to about him has had good things to say. He wants to play a fast-paced style, which I'm good with, and I think we have a lot of guys who will like playing that style. It's going to be interesting. I'm anxious for September to get here and to see what's going to happen."
Until September, Richardson will continue to skate regularly in the Valley and to work to make his leg stronger. He's found a new appreciation for playing in the NHL and he can't wait to do it again.
"I've been taking a one-hurdle-at-a-time approach," Richardson said. "I've passed every stage so far so I'm looking forward to progressing. The No. 1 person who has to push you is yourself. I have motivation. I want to keep playing and playing at a really high level and keep getting better every year. I've enjoyed every day of my career, but I think I'll enjoy it even more now."