When Brad Richardson was 16 years old and a star for the AAA Quinte Red Devils, he bundled up one day in February to watch the Vancouver Canucks play a game of shinny on a frozen patch of ice in Belleville's Bay of Quinte.
The outdoor skate was the brainchild of then Canucks head coach Marc Crawford and his assistant Mike Johnston to break up the monotony of a difficult three-game, four-night road trip through Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. So these professional players got off the train in Belleville and enjoyed their own outdoor classic in a blinding snowstorm.
Richardson will never forget that day. He had a dream to play in the NHL back then and he didn't want to miss a chance to see the Canucks up close and personal right in his hometown. Now, more than 12 years later, the 28-year-old Richardson finds himself about to embark on his first season with the Canucks.
"I'm excited about the opportunity here," said Richardson, who signed a two-year contract worth $1.15-million a season with the Canucks last July.
"They showed a lot of interest in me right off the start. They flew me in.
"I had dinner with management. I wanted to go a team that has a good chance to win.
"I felt Vancouver had that. It actually was a pretty easy decision."
Richardson loved the city. He played there enough as a member of the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings. He wanted to experience playing in a Canadian market. He did a little homework and signed on the dotted line.
Even with prickly head coach John Tortorella on board? That's right. Tortorella already was in place as the Canucks new bench boss. He was hired 10 days before Richardson signed on with his new team.
Did friends and former teammates think Richardson was nuts? The query brought immediate laughter on the other end of the telephone line.
"I think everybody knows about John," said Richardson, who called a couple of other players to find out what Tortorella was like.
"Him being hired didn't factor in. I know he's a tough coach, but he's a fair coach."
'Wants you to compete'
Richardson knows all about tough, but fair coaches. Three of his NHL head coaches could be described that way -- Joel Quenneville, Darryl Sutter and now Tortorella -- and each have won a Stanley Cup.
Quenneville has won two Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and again last spring after spending three seasons coaching Richardson on the Avalanche. Tortorella won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. Richardson won a Stanley Cup with Sutter and the Los Angeles Kings two seasons ago.
"Those are three old-school coaches," Richardson said. "With Joel, he ran a real high-tempo, high-compete practice.
"That's similar to what I've seen with Torts the last few days in training camp. There has been a lot of skating. He wants you to compete to play.
"With Darryl, all he wanted to do was play. He didn't care much about practice, he just wanted to make sure you were ready to play. But like the other two, he also demanded a lot out of his players."
So far, so good for Richardson at Canucks training camp. Sure, Tortorella already has received plenty of attention for his admonishment of Twitter and other forms of social media with the Canucks, but Richardson is not a big Twitter person.
"I don't know what else you want in a coach," Richardson said. "You want a coach who is fair and you want a coach who will play you if you're going that night."
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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