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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Richardson gets noticed on first day
The Lightning defender makes the right impression after an early stumble.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published September 15, 2006
BRANDON - The rope, when you think about it, should not have been hard to miss.
Tied to goal cages at either end of the rink to ensure their spacing as markers on a makeshift course, it was yellow and laid on white ice.
But Lightning defenseman Luke Richardson, fiddling with the heart-rate monitor on his wrist, clipped the rope with his skate and began to tumble.
He caught himself before going spread eagle, but admitted it wasn't exactly the way he wanted to begin his Lightning career.
"I didn't even see the rope," Richardson said, laughing. "I was like, 'Oh, wake up.' "
He did more than that on the first day of camp at the Ice Sports Forum. He opened some eyes.
Richardson skated six three-lap sprints with authority, cutting close the corners around the goal cages, lengthening the gap between teammates, to announce that, at 37 years old, he is ready to contribute.
It was just what Tampa Bay, which is counting on Richardson to fill a hole created when Darryl Sydor was traded in a salary cap move, wanted to see.
"He skated well," coach John Tortorella said. "His times were good and it looks like he's in pretty good shape. He's one of the older guys in camp. I look at some younger guys who are not in nearly as good shape as Luke Richardson."
Or so dedicated to the process.
A grueling camp? Richardson said he went through similar in Philadelphia, where he played for coaches Craig Ramsay and Bill Barber, now an associate coach and director of player personnel, respectively, for the Lightning.
Sharing pain with teammates? He said it is the best way to bond.
"Everybody is in it together," Richardson said. "Everybody is working hard. It's the first step toward becoming a team."
And that, he said, is what he cherishes most.
The Ottawa native, signed as a free agent, said he is looking forward to mentoring younger teammates.
"And it doesn't have to be just defensemen," he said. "It could be someone handling the pressure of the media or someone having a tough time.
"I can look after my own game and still notice someone else who needs a little help or a pat on the back and a little talking to. It doesn't affect me."
"A quiet leader that leads by example," said goaltender Marc Denis, who played the past three seasons with Richardson for the Blue Jackets. "He will be a great addition to this organization."
To say Richardson is a team guy is an understatement.
When in March he was traded to Toronto, several former teammates lauded him in the Columbus Dispatch for his leadership and professionalism.
No surprise then it was so emotional earlier in the season when Richardson resigned as Blue Jackets captain after being benched for the last game of a seven-game losing streak.
Richardson never explained why he gave up the C he held since 2002. Asked Thursday, he said, "I'd rather not. It's just going to create controversy somewhere else.
"I made no big deal about it because I didn't want it to be a distraction to the team. I appreciated my opportunity in Columbus, and I'm ready to help in any leadership capacity here."
The way the Lightning sees it, that capacity includes turns as a top-six defenseman and, at 6 feet 4, 215 pounds, a little law enforcement.
"He's going to bring respect toward teammates on the ice, no cheap shots, because he's a physical presence," Denis said. "He's definitely not an enforcer but he's been known to drop the mitts once in a while."
With his $500,000 salary about $1.6-million less than Sydor's, Richardson also is a bargain.
He doesn't score much with a career-high four goals and just three in his past four seasons. Clearly, that is not how Richardson will be measured.
"He's a veteran voice in the locker room," general manager Jay Feaster said. "A guy who puts the team first."
A guy who on Thursday opened with a fall but still put his best foot forward.