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Blackhawks' Richards made Cup promise come true

by Dan Rosen

CHICAGO -- Brad Richards stood on the ice Monday surrounded by his family, a few feet away from the Stanley Cup, and thought back to the phone conversation that convinced him that signing with the Chicago Blackhawks last summer was the right move.

On the other end of the phone was Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville. There was some foreshadowing.

"The last thing Joel said when I hung up was, 'Come to Chicago, we'll win a Cup,'" Richards said. "He said it like three times in that conversation. He kept interrupting me, kept saying that, and I kept hearing that, thinking, 'How does he know that?'

"I don't know how he knew, but he knew we had a chance and here we are."

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on Monday with a 2-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. They won the best-of-7 series 4-2.

Richards, who had won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, had the assist on Patrick Kane's goal that gave Chicago a 2-0 lead at 14:46 of the third period. He finished the postseason with 14 points in 23 games. He had 37 points in 76 regular-season games.

"It was great to get some footing here, get involved in the team," Richards said. "To be out on the ice in the third period and to be part of a big goal with a player like Patrick Kane, I couldn't dream of anything better."

He couldn't even fathom it at the end of last season, when Richards and the New York Rangers lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

Despite having six years remaining on his contract, Richards knew the moment that series ended, in Game 5 at Staples Center on June 13, 2014, that his career with the Rangers was over; the Rangers issued Richards a compliance buyout June 20, 2014.

"It's hard to believe what's happened in a year," Richards said. "I was pretty down and out to be honest with you. I wanted it to work so bad in New York and I knew that was probably my last chance with the Rangers because of what was coming. It was a pretty sad week. And then having to part ways; some days you don't even think you'll get another chance at it. Do I want to go somewhere else? All those thoughts."

His thoughts changed when he received a call from his agent, Pat Morris, during the 2014 NHL Draft.

"He said Stan walked up to him and said, 'Let's have a conversation,'" Richards said.

Richards was surprised. He didn't think the Blackhawks had enough salary cap space to sign anyone. He clearly was wrong.

"The momentum just started going," Richards said. "I was like, 'Guys, let's just find a way to get this done somehow.'"

Richards eventually signed a one-year contract that reportedly was worth $2 million.

"I knew it was going to be a one-year deal and you can say it's risky or not risky; I didn't care," Richards said. "I just wanted a shot at it. Here we are."

Richards, who is 35 and has been in the NHL for 14 seasons, said he learned more playing with the Blackhawks this season than he has in a long time.

"You get to see multiple Hall of Famers on the ice every night, how they battle, how good and how smart they are, and how it's just a well-oiled machine," Richards said.

He also formed a bond with some teammates, most notably Kane.

"I was telling him hopefully he comes back," Kane said. "Hopefully we can find some room for him. Hopefully he can come back and be a part of the team again. I really like him as a person. I really like him as a teammate. I really can call him a friend now."

Regardless of Kane's hopes, Richards isn't sure what his future holds.

The Blackhawks again will have salary cap restrictions because of the new contracts that kick in next season for Kane and captain Jonathan Toews. Brandon Saad, who can become a restricted free agent July 1, is due a new contract that is expected to be quite lucrative.

It'll be impossible for Bowman to keep this same team together. Richards knows that.

"I really don't care," he said. "This summer is a whole different summer. I'll be partying and enjoying this [championship]. I might not even answer my phone this summer."


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