Almost nine hundred players have donned the Rangers blue in the franchise’s seventy seven years in the NHL, of those nine hundred, just two have had their numbers retired to the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Tonight that very exclusive club was extended to include one of the most popular Rangers of all time, career Ranger netminder Mike Richter. After an emotional announcement this past summer that saw Richter’s fifteen year NHL career come to an end, the Rangers immediately made clear their plans and there for tonight’s festivities.
Arguably the best American born goalie ever to play the game, Richter will be remembered for a career that included a silver medal performance at the 2002 Winter Olympics, a 1996 World Cup winning performance that saw him make 35 saves (including 23 in the second period) of the third game to lead the US to a surprising gold over the favored Canadians, and of course the 1994 Stanley Cup.
After breaking into the league at the age of 22 (a play off game in the 1988-89 post season series against the Pittsburgh Penguins), Richter quickly established himself as a viable backup to Jon Vanbiesbrouck. In just his second full season in the NHL, Richter had already begun to surpass his more experienced team mate, allowing the Rangers to eventually trade the “Beezer” in 1993 to avoid losing him in the expansion draft. Richter followed up the trading of the Rangers starter with 68 starts in the regular season and another 23 in the post season on the way to the Rangers first Stanley Cup in 54 seasons. Richter had an incredible 2.07 goals against average and stop 574 of the 623 shots he faced for a .921 save percentage.
He followed the Cup season up with three more consecutive post season runs, including an improbable 1996-97 trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the 5th placed Rangers knocked off both the high ranked Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils, before succumbing to the high powered Philadelphia Flyers. Perhaps most impressive was the 3 shut outs in 15 games and a stunning .932 save percentage and a five game set against the New Jersey Devils where he gave up just 5 goals in the five game series.
A severely weakened Ranger roster was unable to help him return to the post season after 1996-97, but despite the difficulties the team had in front of him, Richter continued to battle on before injuries ultimately cost him his career
Richter was a model player both on and off the ice. One of the hardest working athletes, he did what many thought was impossible when he came back from not one, but two consecutive knee reconstructions and a concussion the following season only to finally have his career ended with another concussion.
The only goaltender to ever record 300 wins as a Ranger, Richter ended his career the franchise leader in regular season games played for a goalie (666), post season games played (76), wins (301), post season wins (41), minutes (38182), saves in a game (59), wins in a season (42), games played in a regular season (72), highest save percentage in a season (.917), assists in a season by a goaltender (5), and playoff shutouts (9).
Thanks for a boatload of memories Mike…
2002 300th NHL win
2002 Olympic Team All Star
2002 USA Olympic Team – Silver medal
2000 NHL All Star
1998 Played team record 72 games
1998 USA Olympic team
1996 World Cup of Hockey All Star Team
1996 USA World Cup of Hockey Most Valuable Player
1996 USA World Cup of Hockey – Gold medal
1995 Thurman Munson Award for charitable work
1995 Sloan Kettering Award for Courage for work with hospitals
1994 Stanley Cup
1994 Recorded team record 42 wins in a season
1994 NHL All Star MVP
1994 NHL All Star
1992 NHL All Star
1991 Vezina Trophy Finalist
1991 “Good Guy” award for cooperation with the press
1987 WCHA Second Team All Star
1985 Drafted by the New York Rangers .