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Richardson relishes role as first mate

New Islanders Assistant Coach Eager to Form Bond with Players

May 23, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As a hard-nosed defenseman in the NHL, Luke Richardson took plenty of shots at the Islanders. Now, he’ll be coaching them via his hiring as Doug Weight’s assistant on the Brooklyn bench for the 2017-18 season. AP Photo by Rusty Kennedy
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Tough love appears to be the modus operandi for newly named New York Islanders assistant coach Luke Richardson.

Hired last week to be head coach Doug Weight’s first mate on the bench, the former veteran defenseman brings 21 years of experience on the ice and six years of mentoring players to his new post.

In a recent interview on the team’s website (, Richardson spoke about the nuances of his role as both motivator and critic to his new charges.

“There’s a mixture of old-school and new-school,” said the 48-year-old Ottawa native, who spent the better part of five seasons skating alongside his new boss in Edmonton during the 1990s.

“But I definitely think the communication and building those relationships with players is huge nowadays … That doesn’t mean coddling them, that just means communicating with them and being truthful and honest.”

Coming off a roller-coaster season in which they wound up a single point shy of reaching the postseason for a third consecutive year, the Islanders are a team that appears intent on developing young talent, while finding a way to keep their most talented and important player, captain John Tavares, in the mix going forward.

Tavares will be a free agent at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, but the Islanders have an opportunity later this summer to ink him to an extension.

Reconfiguring the coaching staff by firing longtime head coach Jack Capuano earlier this year, and establishing Weight as the team’s leader going forward, may have been a move designed to influence Tavares’ upcoming decision.

Fortunately for Richardson, general manager Garth Snow, another of his former teammates, will have to tackle Tavares’ pending free agency while he gets at least one full season of coaching the two-time Hart Trophy finalist and arguably the best all-around hockey player this city has seen in some time.

“It’s a unique situation when you get a chance to play or coach or be around someone at that level and they are unique people,” Richardson said. “I had a chance to play with guys way back like Börje Salming, which was a different level, and then obviously guys like Dougie Weight in Edmonton, Eric Lindros in Philadelphia and Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa.

“Those are the types of people that raise the bar for everyone around you, so when you have someone like that, it’s an automatic help to the coaching staff because when other players play with world-class players in practice every day, they get better and that’s a big help to the coaching staff right there.”

While sharing the practice ice with Tavares will be a new experience for Richardson, he does have a few players on the roster he is already familiar with.

Richardson coached Isles forward Shane Prince for three years at AHL Binghamton and spent a year playing with veteran forward Jason Chimera in Columbus during the 2005-06 campaign, four years before his retirement as a player.

“I saw Jason and it’s great,” said Richardson, who is already looking for a place to live here in New York. “It’s fun when you see someone you’ve played with or coached before and it brings a smile and good feelings, so it was great to see him and be welcomed by him.

“Shane Prince I haven’t spoken to him yet, but we had a great relationship. I really enjoyed him. He’s one of those guys, he doesn’t mind taking a challenge as a player and implement it into his game and it’ll be great to see him again.”

Of course, landing this position came via Richardson’s strongest Islander connection. He and Weight weren’t just teammates in Edmonton and colleagues as coaches, the tandem has a strong bond off the ice as well.

“Dougie and I are former teammates and have been really close family friends for a long time,” Richardson revealed. “We’ve spent a lot of time together the last few years talking hockey and stuff, so we really know each other well and obviously keep up on what each other is doing.

“So it was really exciting to get that phone call and it’s always great to be reunited with close ex-teammates and to have the chance to work together with the same mindset and work ethic. It’s going to be really exciting with a good, young team.”

Isle Have Another: The 2017 IIHF Championships in France and Germany concluded this past weekend with Sweden emerging with the title following a 2-1 shootout victory over Canada in the gold medal game. Isles defenseman Calvin de Haan took home a silver medal as a member of Team Canada and New York goaltending prospect Ilya Sorokin grabbed a bronze medal after Russia beat Finland, 5-3, in the third-place game. Isles blue liner Dennis Seidenberg was named the top defenseman in the tournament as a member of Team Germany, picking up eight points, including one goal, in eight games. Team USA forward Anders Lee, who led the Isles in goals with a career-high 34 this past season, also had a very productive tournament, registering five goals and three assists in eight games for the Americans, who failed to medal. 

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