The news broke on Friday that the Blackhawks have hired Luke Richardson to lead their rebuild and be their new head coach.
Richardson has been in the NHL since the early ’80s, but this is his first head coaching job at hockey’s highest level. Here are five things to know about Chicago’s new leader.
1. Richardson played in 1,417 NHL games over 21 seasons
Richardson played for six NHL teams. during his long career: Toronto from 1987-91, Edmonton from 1991-97, Philadelphia from 1997-2002, Columbus from 2002-06 (then back to Toronto for the end of 2006), Tampa Bay from 2006-07, and finally Ottawa from 2007-09.
Richardson, now 53, was known as a solid stay-at-home defender who played with a physical edge. During his career, he amassed 2,055 penalty minutes.
As a rookie with the Maple Leafs, Richardson was famously the victim of a blatant slash to the head by Dino Ciccarelli. The incident was retaliation for Richardson cross-checking Ciccarelli into the board earlier in the game, but Ciccarelli got the stiffer fine: One day in a jail and a $1,000 fine.
2. Richardson is an experienced NHL coach
Richardson joins the Blackhawks after four seasons as an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens, where he coached under Claude Julien, Dominique Ducharme, and Martin St. Louis. Before that, he spent a year in Long Island coaching under Doug Weight. He also has head coaching experience at the AHL level, where he coached the Binghamton Senators, a job he earned after three years as an assistant in Ottawa, where he began his coaching career in 2009.
In 2021, Richardson made his NHL head coaching debut during the weird “Western Conference Final” vs Vegas, filling in for Ducharme, who tested positive for COVID-19 hours before puck drop.
When Ducharme was fired in February, many hoped Richardson would have been considered for the interim head coaching job, but his inability to speak French fluently made that an impossibility. Martin St. Louis took the reigns as interim, and was named to the permanent role on June 1.
3. His players in Montreal adored him
It’s impossible to do research on Luke Richardson and NOT find comments from his players lauding his coaching.
“He was just a huge calming factor for us … during games he knows how to handle himself,” Jordie Benn told the Athletic in 2019. “He knows hockey’s really fast and sometimes people are going to make mistakes. He did a really good job of letting us calm down before he came out and tried to correct them.”
“He’s really good. He’s a calm guy back there and he’s smart and he sees the game so well, he understands what it’s like to be a player. So you know, mistakes happen and he’s not in your ear after every shift talking about you should have done this small, little adjustment every time,” says Brett Kulak. “He speaks up at the right times and lets you know areas that are really important when you make a mistake or if you keep doing something over and over that’s not right he can point that out to you.”
“From player interviews…he seems to be a guy that players would run through the wall for,” Laura Saba, host of Locked On Canadiens, told the CHGO Blackhawks Podcast.
“He seems to be the kind of guy who knows how to talk to and communicate with players. Nobody would say a bad word about him. He’s definitely what I would term a player’s coach.”
4. The Canadiens wanted Richardson back
When Martin St. Louis was named permanent head coach of the Habs, he made it clear that he would welcome Richardson back to his staff with open arms. That’s not always the case when a new coach takes over. They like to have their own staff of trusted assistants. It speaks volumes about Richardson’s qualifications that he lasted through three head coaches in Montreal.
5. Richardson has overcome personal tragedy (TW: suicide)
In November of 2010, Richardson’s 14-year-old daughter, Daron, took her own life.
“Daron is always in my heart and in our hearts,” Richardson said.
After picking up his first win as a head coach in the 2021 playoffs, Richardson touched the pin he wears in Daron’s honor.
“I just thought it was a perfect time to pay a little tribute to her because we definitely miss her.”
Richardson, along with his wife Stephanie, founded DIFD (Do It For Daron) in their daughter’s honor. If you’d like more info or would like to donate, visit difd.com/about.