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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Richter's Manhattan project takes youngsters outdoors

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NEW YORK -- Mike Richter missed hockey when a lockout kept the star goalie and his New York Rangers teammates off the ice 18 years ago. Now as a parent and an observer of the game, Richter is feeling the loss all over again.

"It's very disappointing," he said. "It's disappointing to be a player. Someone made the point the other day that the average life of a player in the NHL is just over four years, and you don't want to give away 25 per cent of that by missing a season. You don't get it back, and it's not just the money. You don't get the opportunity to perform, you don't get to win the Stanley Cup that year, you don't get to compete and hone your skills."

Richter will put his talent on display today in the middle of Manhattan and will instruct kids at Bryant Park as he hosts the Citi Mike Richter Hockey ProCamp for boys and girls ages 7-14.

Just because the NHL is shut down, that doesn't mean that hockey has to disappear altogether.

"The sport of hockey is so much fun, and fans are particularly passionate," said the 46-year-old, a key member of the Rangers' 1994 championship team. "If there is an NBA lockout or an NFL lockout, (fans) migrate to other sports, but hockey fans seem to kind of sit in their own juices and get a little bit upset, but they stay there.

"They are particularly upset by the lack of professional hockey, but that labour issue will pass. The good news is the game remains, and the best part of the game is playing it. Any chance I get to play outdoors, I go with my kids to upstate New York and play on the pond on the outdoor ice surfaces there.

"Playing outdoors makes the game more authentic."

So he and the campers will take the game outside. The event today will start at the break of dawn and will take place in the cool soon-to-be winter air. The NHL's Winter Classic scheduled for New Year's Day was an early casualty of the ongoing lockout, but Richter and the children will stage their own version of outdoor hockey.

Those in attendance at this event for Citi Private Pass members will be taught fundamentals and the team concept of hockey. The groups will be small so each camper will receive maximum instruction from top coaches in New York. In addition, 1998 Olympic gold medal winning forward Alana Blahoski will also participate.

"The weather comes into play," Richter said. "It's a cool thing. If you've ever had the experience of skating outdoors, it's pretty special. That setting is about as cool as it gets anywhere I've been.

"We'll give instruction, and the key is for the kids to learn something and have a really fun experience."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2012 B2

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