Luke Richards perseveres, impresses with Hat Tricks

by Jim Cerny, Hat Tricks Insider

When Luke Richards reached his locker after a record-tying performance for the Danbury Hat Tricks this past Saturday, he checked his text messages. There was one from his mother, who had a simple question.

“What did you eat before the game today?”

Indeed. What exactly fueled the six-point outburst by the 21-year-old who was playing his second professional game?

“It was just one of those nights when the puck is just going your way,” Richards explained matter of factly. “I was definitely in the zone.”

But then, a slight hint about what fueled him.

“Definitely felt good to have a night like that after what I went through the past year or so,” Richards shared. “It’s been a tough road the past year for me in hockey, just going through a lot of ups and downs. When I saw I was even in the lineup, I was jumping out of my boots to get to the rink.”

Dig a little deeper and you find out exactly why the rookie’s three-goal, three-assist night brought his sister, Gabby, to tears.

That Richards was in the lineup last weekend against the Delaware Thunder is fairly remarkable. Much less tying Jonny Ruiz’s franchise record for most points in a game.

In the last year, Richards made the difficult decision to leave Stonehill College after an unfulfilled experience. He returned to junior hockey to play for Maryland in the Eastern Hockey League, crashing on Gabby’s couch for a couple of months since she lives about 30 minutes from the rink there. He took on jobs with Door Dash and a local restaurant to help fund his dream of playing hockey.

After deciding to turn pro at the end of last season, Richards decided to play in Sweden. But when his paperwork was delayed, it looked like he was going to be without a job to start this season.

“Then I heard from Billy and came to Danbury,” Richards explained, referring to Hat Tricks coach and general manager Billy McCreary.

But his odyssey didn’t end there. Richards arrived at rookie camp sick. Not just sick. But SICK. Richards had the flu, bronchitis, an ear infection and pneumonia. He missed all of rookie camp and the first week of training camp.

“For him to go to Sweden and that doesn’t work out, and then he goes to the Hat Tricks and he gets sick the first week, I’m like ‘What the hell?’ Gabby said. “This kid just can’t get a break.”

But Richards made his own break. He was back on the ice four days before the first game and impressed enough to land on the roster and earn a spot in the opening-night lineup.

He had four shots on goal in his pro debut and didn’t look out of place. Then he exploded in the 12-5 win Saturday, finding the scoresheet six times.

Gabby was in a Georgia hotel on business, watching her brother play. And the tears flowed. As did a series of tweets expressing how proud she was of her baby brother.

“I was fired up,” Gabby said. “He was having a blast. I haven’t seen a smile on his face when he’s on the ice in a really long time. It was great to see. I watched him grow a lot over the past year. I have never been prouder of my brother.”

The sibling appreciation is a two-way street.

“I was more happy for her than me,” Richards said. “She’s been through the ringer with me the past 12 months. She’s become so invested in everything, which I’m so grateful for. She’s seen me through the ups and downs.”

Richards said he knows there’s a tough grind and long season ahead. His great start has earned him the opportunity to stay in the lineup this weekend when the Binghamton Black Bears come to town. But anything past that is not a given. Certainly the past 12 months have taught him at least that.

His sister, for one, is confident that he’s got this.

“I cannot wait to see what he’s able to do (in Danbury).”