Red Wings' Richards going outside again
Stadium Series game at Coors Field is his fifth outdoor gameby Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer
DENVER -- Detroit Red Wings center Brad Richards might have a new strategy for selecting his next team if he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"Where are they [the outdoor games] next year?" Richards said. "Maybe I'll look at those for July 1."
He said that jokingly; but really, would it be all that shocking if Richards did in fact sign with a team that will eventually be scheduled to play in an outdoor game next season?
Richards is here preparing to play in his fifth NHL outdoor game with his third different team since 2012. He's 3-1 so far.
Richards won with the New York Rangers in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and in the two games they played in as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. He lost with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic.
On Saturday, he'll get an opportunity to play in a 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field (8 p.m., NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2). It's the NHL's 18th regular-season outdoor game, meaning Richards has played in more than a quarter of them.
Somewhat amazingly, all of Richards' outdoor games have been in baseball stadiums, which is more than half the number that the League has held in baseball stadiums. The game at Coors Field will be the eighth in a baseball stadium.
"It's great memories for me that I'll be able to have the rest of my life," Richards said. "You don't take this game for granted and to be able to do these things and to have the audience and attention on it, it's not a regular game in an 82-game schedule."
This one has the added and special element of being a night game. Those are Richards' favorites.
He played at night with the Rangers against the New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29, 2014. The Rangers' Winter Classic game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 2, 2012, started in daylight and finished under the lights.
"The Yankee Stadium ones stick out the most because we were home, in the backyard of the Rangers' fans, and the night one was pretty cool," Richards said. "It was just cool to go out under the lights and see the crowd. It's just a different look to the building."
Red Wings defenseman Mike Green is also a veteran of NHL outdoor games; he's getting ready to play in his third.
Green also played in the afternoon Winter Classic last season, only for the Washington Capitals, the home team at Nationals Park. He also played under the lights at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh with the visiting Capitals in the 2011 Winter Classic.
Green, who is 2-0 in outdoor games, also likes playing at night.
"The night game was a lot better because you didn't get sun glare," Green said. "And with the spotlight on, it's just pretty cool."
Several other Red Wings have played in at least one NHL outdoor game; 11 players on Detroit's current roster played in the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two others, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and forward Darren Helm, were injured at the time.
Forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and defenseman Niklas Kronwall are the only holdovers from the 2009 Winter Classic game at Wrigley Field.
Forward Luke Glendenning is preparing to play in his sixth outdoor game, but only his second in the NHL. He played in three outdoor games in college and one in the American Hockey League.
There are eight outdoor-game rookies who could play for Detroit on Saturday: Ericsson and fellow defensemen Alexey Marchenko; expected starting goalie Petr Mrazek, and forwards Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Teemu Pulkkinen, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.
Larkin, the 19-year-old who is expected to play on the right wing with Richards and Athanasiou, said he never pictured himself playing in an NHL outdoor game.
"No, but it was a dream," he said. "I remember back to the first [Winter Classic] in Buffalo, and it was like a holiday. Our whole family got together to watch it. It was so cool. For me, I never really thought I'd be playing in one so it's cool just to be here."
Although he was quite wide-eyed in practice and in the clubhouse after practice Friday, Larkin said he's taking his cues on how to approach the outdoor game from veteran players such as Richards.
"For me, it's easy to look around and get excited, be a rookie, a first-time outdoor game guy, but the guys are doing a great job of treating it normal," Larkin said.
Richards said he'll talk to Larkin and Athanasiou about technical aspects of playing in an outdoor game, such as challenges with the ice and elements that don't exist indoors. But he wants them to draw their own opinions and live the experience how they want to live it, just as he did more than four years ago in Philadelphia.
"They'll enjoy it," Richards said. "I'm playing with two guys that hopefully will not be affected by the ice. They're the fastest guys I've ever seen on the ice. Hopefully they'll bring me along for the ride."