Thursday

Stephane Richer

If there was one player in the 1980s and 1990s who seemed destined to carry on the tradition of the Flying Frenchmen in Montreal, it was Stephane Richer. Montreal fans never really warmed to him, and instead of a glorious legacy he is almost forgotten.

This despite the fact that Richer played the game with flair and even a touch of elegance, just enough to hint of a Jean Beliveau or a Guy Lafleur. He was a prolific goal scorer, twice reaching 50 goals in a Habs uniform, the last French Canadien player to do so. He was a regular three star selection, twice taking home the Montreal team award for most three star selections in a season. Three times he led Montreal in playoff goals, and twice in playoff points. He was also a member of the 1986 team that won the Stanley Cup, and the 1989 team that appeared in the Stanley Cup finals.

He was a beautiful player, blessed with lightning speed, good size and a bullet of a shot, Richer had no real weakness in his game. He was a very streaker player and scorer, but he was a conscientious defensive player and refused to be intimidated physically.

Though he excited and teased fans, he also disappointed them. He was prone to bad mistakes, such as receiving a 10 game suspension in November 1988 for spearing Jeff Norton of the Islanders. The media fueled speculation about a rift between Richer and coach Pat Burns. The media even took it too far and made it personal, questioning Richer's sexuality and mental health. Late in his career he would come clean about life-long battles with clinical depression, including twice seriously contemplating suicide. The sexual issues are completely unsubstantiated and incredibly unfair.

Through it all Richer played wonderfully. One has to wonder just how good he could have been without his illness and without the pressure of being in Montreal. He could have been another true great. He could have been an earlier version of Vincent Lecavalier, a player he would later help mentor. Instead Montreal chewed him up and spit him out, leaving many French Canadiens stars from playing for the Habs.

In 1991 Richer was traded by Montreal to the Devils in a deal for Kirk Muller. In New Jersey he enjoyed moments of glory, twice leading the team in goals and first star selections, and once in points. Not many people realize this, but Richer was the Devil's leading scorer when they won the Stanley Cup in 1995.

In 1996 Montreal tried to bring Richer back, and Richer wanted to come back and correct his childhood dreams gone wrong. Unspectacularly he played parts of two seasons before being traded to Tampa Bay. He would later see time with St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and a return stop in New Jersey.

In retirement Richer moved to Montpellier, Quebec, where he had owned Club de Golf Montpellier since his playing days. He has taken a much more active role in it after his retirement.

2 comments:

marclorme 9:41 PM  

he was.... wowwwww... great player.....

Anonymous,  6:50 AM  

As a young boy, my son's favorite player was the Devils' Stephane Richer. He modeled his game after the
the big winger's game and has flourished in every league in which he has participated. Now at age 24, he still wears Richer's #44 and has 19 goals in his team's first 5 games of the current system. Richer was a feared sniper who could not be left unguarded to menace opposing goalies. Without his health issues, he would have been a 500+ goal scorer and a good bet to be in the Hall of Fame.

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