The man who backstopped the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship, Mike Richter is the team's all-time leader in games played by a goaltender with 666, and now ranks second to Henrik Lundqvist on the franchise's all-time wins list with 301. A second-round pick by the Rangers in 1985, Richter made his NHL debut during the 1989 playoffs and went on to play through the 2002-03 season before injuries forced him to call it a career. He was a three-time U.S. Olympian, a three-time NHL All Star, and his No. 35 was retired by the Rangers on February 4, 2004.
BSU: How do you view Henrik Lundqvist, and what is your relationship with him?
MR: First of all I view him with respect. When scouts looked at him and drafted him they obviously saw talent and potential, but he has put in the work to maximize that potential. It was up to him and he does the work. He certainly has the talent, but you're not in this league if you don't have talent. He has a blend of great skill, great work ethic, focus, and determination to keep improving that has allowed him to become an elite goalie. So I have so much respect for him--not just for his accomplishments, but for how hard he has worked to achieve them.
BSU: Is it that work ethic, in your opinion, that makes Henrik stand out from other top goalies?
MR: He is the perfect combination of talent and ability to apply himself. You can't be a top, top player without combining the mental and emotional side with the physical, and he does that, and you see the results because of that. We all love to see great talent, but we also love to see great talent that has been honed to its sharpest point; and you are seeing that with Henrik. There are so many great goaltenders out there, and to be viewed as one of the best, as he is, is very, very special.
BSU: Was it any surprise to you that when Henrik won his milestone 300th game, he did it in high style with a shutout, tying Ed Giacomin's team record in the process?
MR: That is part of it with him. I think great players find ways of doing things like that; but what they really do--great players like Henrik--is that they play to the upper levels of their capacity as much as possible. The reason why the great ones have such success is that a Marty Brodeur or a Ken Dryden or now Henrik, they give you nothing for free--there aren't too many nights off, he plays hard every night. It's not just about great moments, it's the consistency across his career, from period to period, season to season, that separates him. On any given night he can pitch a shutout, in my opinion, but his focus is solely on working hard.
BSU: How did you feel when you passed Ed Giacomin as the Rangers all-time wins leader years ago?
MR: I tried not to think about it too much when approaching the record. My goal on a personal level was always the same as it was for the team: to win as many games as possible. A win is a win, you benefit and the team as a whole benefits. They're tough to get, so it means you as a goalie have stopped a lot of pucks to help your team. These aren't just personal things. That's what you are being asked to do by the organization. So the more the better when it comes to wins. That's why I was comfortable chasing the record..because I was helping the team.
BSU: Do you have any mixed emotions about seeing your wins record eclipsed by Henrik?
MR: I think in the abstract you always want your records to last forever, but in reality--as Wayne Gretzky always said, though I'm not sure it applies to him--all records are made to be broken. Your time is your time.You go out there as hard as you can and make the most of it for however long it lasts. I tried to do that, and the only way you can be at peace with it is if you have exhausted the possibilities as much as you can. When someone else comes along who works hard--Henrik didn't back into his success, he has worked really hard--you have to be nothing but proud for him. As he eclipses a number of great goalies who have come before him--Gump Worsley and Dave Kerr and Ed Giacomin and John Vanbiesbrouck and myself--you then hold a different position. I'm now a link in that chain from the present to the past, and it's a great place to be. We all love to see excellence as a fan, and I am a fan now watching excellence in the Rangers net.