Luke Richardson is accepting the end the same way he has carried himself throughout a 21-year National Hockey League career: With the ultimate in dignity, class and professionalism.
While it isn't official yet, the Ottawa Senators defenceman acknowledged today that his lengthy playing career is over after stops in Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa, his hometown. As he spoke with the media shortly before clearing NHL waivers, Richardson found it hard to describe the mix of emotions no doubt churning inside him.
"It's a little weird," he said. "I've definitely enjoyed my time playing and it looks like it's over. There's pretty much no regret in that area. I've had a great opportunity here. Bryan (Murray, the Senators' general manager) has given me a great opportunity in the last year and a chance to come home and play at home. This is where we wanted to be as a family and it was a great thrill here at the end, playing for the Senators.
"From here, I'm not exactly sure where it's going to go."
While he has had some preliminary discussions with Murray about coaching positions of some sort within the Senators organization, Richardson said he doesn't expect to learn anything more definite until at least next week.
"I'd love to stay here and coach and I think they've shown interest in that," said Richardson.
Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg said he'd welcome any input he can get from the 39-year-old Richardson, whom he called "a warrior and a great person for a long time."
"There's no easy way for anybody to end their career," he added. "If everything works out, I'd love to have Luke come and work with us. He has great knowledge and character ... you want people like that around.
"He's been a warrior and a character player. If he gets into coaching, which we would like to see him do, he'll do a great job because of his character."
Murray envisions Richardson being a great example and mentor for some of the team's top young defensive prospects, including Brian Lee and 2008 draft picks Erik Karlsson
and Patrick Wiercioch
"He's the kind of example you want for your young people," said Murray. "We've got a couple of other young defencemen that Luke or people like that can have a good influence on as far as passing on their experience and stories and all the rest that goes into making a good NHL player."
Richardson logged 1,417 games over his 21 NHL seasons and another 69 playoff contests, ranking him among the active leaders in terms of service. It's only now that the pride in such longevity is beginning to sink in.
"When you're playing, it's just another game, another day, another year," he said. "You don't really think about the accomplishments because every day you're in the league, you want to accomplish something. Now that it is done, I'm starting to get a little bit of that feeling.
"It's a little bit weird coming to the rink and not being sure where you fit in or where you go, but I think after 1,400 games, you should be comfortable wherever you go in the rink. It's been my home for more than half my life, really, so I'm looking forward to keeping it going.
"Looking back on 21 years, it's been great," said Richardson. "There's been nothing but good memories and I enjoyed every minute of it. It's the best league to play in if you're a hockey player."
He's especially happy that he got to finish up in his hometown, though that wasn't a certainty until the Senators offered him a pro tryout just a week before training camp opened. Richardson signed on for a 21st season on the eve of the team's season-opening trip to Sweden.
"It took until about a week before camp before I knew I was coming," he said. "If something (else) came up, I would have had to think about it. But at this point in my career, I really didn't want to leave here. I was hoping something would work out here and it did.
"I'd love to continue it here. It's been great playing with the Senators and I'd like to stay with the organization. From the top on down, it's been nothing but first class and to be a part of that, there's a lot of pride. To stick with it would be great."