Most likely, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer will be giving a motivational talk to his players at some point before the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. There’s a decent chance that Mike Richards has already heard at least some of that speech. Richards and DeBoer reached the pinnacle of junior hockey together in 2004, when the DeBoer-coached, Richards-led Kitchener Rangers won the Memorial Cup, the top prize in all of junior hockey. Now, they’re reunited on the NHL’s biggest stage.
Devils forward David Clarkson was also a member of that Kitchener team, which a 19-year-old Richards led with 36 goals and 53 assists in the regular season. In 2008, the Florida Panthers hired DeBoer out of the OHL, then fired him at the end of last season. The Devils quickly snapped up DeBoer, who turns 44 last month, and he has coached the Devils to the Finals. Reporters jokingly suggested to Richards that he, more than anyone, knows what to expect from a DeBoer-coached team.
RICHARDS: “Maybe a little bit (but) I don’t think too much. It’s been a while since I’ve had him as a coach. Obviously I’m happy for him to have success, but I’m looking forward to getting started and playing, and obviously I hope that we can have success.’’
Question: Do you have any particular memory of playing for him?
RICHARDS: “Well, he was the coach there when we won the Memorial Cup, so that’s obviously the best memory of Kitchener. It’s hard to believe it’s already been seven years (since his junior career ended). He’s getting old. I’m getting old, but he’s getting really old. [laughs] … We text every once in a while. I would see him when he used to be in Florida. I talked to him briefly when we went to Jersey (in October). He had a big part in my career, getting me through the four years and teaching me a lot, and obviously won with it too, not only at the Memorial Cup but he was there in World Juniors as an assistant coach. It was a pretty unique situation, but I obviously hope that we have success.’’
Question: What do you think about the type of success he has had in New Jersey?
RICHARDS: “I’m not surprised by it. One, they have a really good team, and obviously a great organization. He’s such a smart hockey coach, not only with Xs and Os but knows how to get the most out of his players. In games, he’s very smart in matchups and stuff like that. I’m not really surprised by it. They obviously have a good team, and he’s doing well coaching, too.’’