MONTREAL | “I think it should happen, whether it’s in two days, three weeks or three months. Once I wear the Canadiens jersey, I will organize myself to stay there.
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Friday, around noon, Anthony Richard finds himself in a hotel in Cleveland. He comes out of training with the Laval Rocket on the eve of a game against the Monsters, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ school team.
Richard had the right feeling. But he didn’t have to wait another three weeks or three months. The Rocket’s number 90 made the correct prediction when he received a call from Kent Hughes and the Canadian exactly two days after his telephone interview with the Journal.
The day after a third loss in a row, a 5-1 defeat against the Lightning, the CH looked for reinforcements on the attack by recalling the top scorer in the American League. To make room for him, Hughes sent Rem Pitlick back to the Rocket.
If there was a meritocracy system in hockey, Richard’s recall would be a perfect model.
As of December 18, the 25-year-old center was the top scorer in the American League with 18 goals. He also led league scoring with three shorthanded goals. With 31 points, he was third in scoring.
With the injury to Sean Monahan, there is a hole in the center position. Richard knew he was knocking on the door of the big club.
“The way I play, it’s impossible to think that I couldn’t have an impact with the Canadian, he said. I am at the peak of my career. I play with confidence and find the game slowing down in my head. I can predict games. These are things that are rare in a career. If I can play well in the NHL, it’s right now. I wouldn’t be intimidated by a recall.”
“I know the business of hockey. I know how it works. I will not worry about it. I continue to play. With my experience, I know that if my luck does not come from Montreal, it can come from another NHL team. There are teams that would like to give me a chance. I play my best and I force the hand of the leaders of the CH. My only goal is to play so well to force them to call me back.
Richard had a very lucid speech 48 hours before his recall. He knew he had put himself in a position of strength with inspired play.
Fourth round choice of the Nashville Predators in 2015, the Trifluvien has a small experience of two games in the NHL. He had worn the Predators uniform for one game in 2018-2019 and for another the following season.
After a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization last year, where he played with the Syracuse Crunch, Richard signed a two-part contract with the CH on July 13.
When he wrote his name at the bottom of this document, he had more in mind the team of his childhood than the Rocket.
“I signed this contract with the Canadian precisely for this possibility of obtaining a recall. In Tampa, I came close. I knew Laval would be a great experience, but I always have in mind to play for the Canadiens. I imagine myself in the CH uniform. I scored in a White vs. Red game at the Bell Center at camp in front of my family members. Just that, I found it special.”
“I want to play a game at the Bell Centre, I want to play a game with the Canadiens. It would be a dream. I would like to embark on the song Fix you, from Coldplay. I’ve heard it since I was young. I went to see games at the Bell Center with my father in my childhood and I had chills when the players jumped on the ice.
Before hitting the Bell Center ice, Richard will make his debut away from Montreal. The CH will play its next seven games on the road with a first stop Monday in Tempe, Arizona.
A formative final
Anthony Richard never had the pleasure of donning the Lightning uniform. However, he came close to living the Stanley Cup final against the Colorado Avalanche.
“I participated in the warm-up periods for the fifth game of the final in Denver and the sixth game in Tampa, recalled Richard. I found myself an injured person from realizing my dream of playing in the playoffs. I had spoken to Jon Cooper before morning practice for Game 5. He told me I was the trusted player to replace Anthony Cirelli if he couldn’t play. But Anthony ended up playing despite fairly serious injuries.
“For my confidence, it was huge. There is nothing that compares to a final and I was very close to a presence in the formation. Cooper thought the stage wouldn’t be too big for me. I had my best summer of training just because of my presence in the environment of the Lightning in the final. I would say that it revived my career.
After moving from the Predators to the Lightning last season, Richard led the Syracuse Crunch with six points (four goals, two assists) in five playoff games. After the elimination against the Laval Rocket, he had obtained an invitation to follow the Lightning in the playoffs.
“The Lightning had invited several players from the American League. We had like a minicamp after our playoffs in the American League, he said. They cut players, but I stayed there. There were just two extra strikers.
“Julien BriseBois had met with me to tell me that I was to stay with the Lightning until the end of the playoffs. I found it really special. I had arrived in the middle of the season and I had everything to prove with the Lightning organization. Before the trade, I had an ordinary season in Milwaukee. I wanted to relaunch my career.”
Richard relaunched his career during his time with the Lightning and the Crunch. But he also made a giant leap this season with the Rocket. Offensively, he already has more goals (18) than in 71 games last year with the Milwaukee Admirals and the Crunch, where he hit the target 17 times.