Former New York Rangers goaltender and Stanley Cup champion Mike Richter spoke about lessons learned over his 14 seasons in the NHL at a Calhoun College Master’s Dessert Thursday night.
A member of the U.S. Olympic Hockey team in 1988 and 1998, and a silver medalist in 2002, Richter won a franchise-leading 301 games in his career, the entirety of which he spent with the Rangers. In the 1993-4 season, Richter turned in a record 42 wins, before earning a playoff-record four shutouts en route to his first and only Stanley Cup. In tribute to the talented goalkeeper who ended his career with a .904 save percentage, Richter’s No. 35 jersey was retired Feb. 4, 2004 and hangs in the rafters at Madison Square Garden.
A packed house of about 85 students, including members of the Yale men’s hockey team, as well as head coach Tim Taylor, faculty and community members, listened intently as Richter emphasized the mental approach he considered necessary for such success in sports, as well as in the game of life.
“There are parameters to whatever you do,” Richter said. “Once you know what those are, it is how disciplined [you are] to adhere to those rules.”
Having been a teammate of such players as Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, Richter said he acquired some of his self-discipline by observing the future hall-of-famers. Richter said seeing the reaction of his “almost psychopathic” captain, Messier, to a rocky season in Ranger-land taught Richter about the attitude he came to desire.
“There were a lot of management problems and we were horrible,” Richter said. “There was Messier, who said, ‘I’m so disappointed with myself for letting this situation affect my play.'”
In this instance, Richter said he realized he could control his reaction to circumstances and, more importantly, that even his role models struggled with self-discipline.
“I never knew [Messier] had to work on it,” Richter said. “[Gretzky and Messier] were unbelievable in their discipline. How they approach it is almost eerie.”
Eli goalie Josh Gartner ’06 said Richter’s brand of mental toughness made an impression on him
“I enjoyed hearing about [Richter’s] mental approach to sports and life in general,” Gartner said. “It reaffirmed a lot of things I’ve been working on and it’s encouraging to hear his advice.”
Donning a Stanley Cup Champions hat and a New York Rangers jacket, Branford resident Eddie Leideman talked excitedly about his favorite goalie from his favorite team.
“[Richter’s greatest moment] was the penalty shot save against Pavel Bure in the Stanley Cup Finals versus Vancouver [Canucks in 1994],” Leideman said.
When asked about The Save, Richter recalled one of his greatest moments as a netminder.
“Everyone remembers that [save], but he’d scored on me nine times in the series before that,” Richter said, laughing. “I’m good at penalty shots and it worked out well.”
Apart from the sport which used to define him, Richter said he has enjoyed encountering new challenges in his latest arena — Yale. In the opinion of the goaltender, who appeared in 666 games as a Ranger, the classroom environment is as tough as any.
“You can’t get a much more competitive environment,” Richter said. “These are professional students.”
Richter said the transition has not been seamless, but said he relished this new phase of his life as he searches for his identity apart from hockey.
“No matter what you say, [hockey] becomes part of your identity,” Richter said. “That part of you dies, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”
Richter enrolled this fall at Yale as a special student and is currently pursuing a B.A. in Ethics, Politics and Economics.
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