Richter Remains a Ranger For Two More Years

Question: besides newly-re-signed goaltender Mike Richter, who will be the second busiest person around the Rangers organization this coming winter?

Answer: The neighborhood pharmacy's Geritol person.

The N.H.L.'s Senior Citizens Center struck again Thursday as General Manager Glen Sather continued to keep the Rangers in the daily tabloid newsmix.

Richter, 36, is a fabulously ironic story anyhow. He grew up in the Montgomery County, PA bedroom suburb of Flourtown, about 12 miles north of Philadelphia, an area where even his parents rode to the Plymouth Meeting Mall with Flyers bumper stickers on their cars.

A Rangers sticker? Marrone!!!

But the still-altar boyish Richter has a wealth of fundamental hockey roots. Along with knowing Kate Smith's every deep breath and inflection as she'd hypnotize Philly's passionate hockey faithful with "God Bless America," he also was lucky enough to learn from one of hockey's best -- the late "Badger Bob" Johnson.

One thing he learned quickly was loyalty.

And despite his emotional loyalties to his old home town, he grew to love the New York lifestyle and fans and that played into his thought process as he happily accepted an over $1 million per year paycut to $4 million per year for the privilege of playing the next two winters in Rangers Blue.

"When you think of what Mike has given to this organization -- he's torn up both knees and fractured his skull at the end of this (past) year," Sather told John Dellapina of the New York Daily News Thursday.

Richter's little visit to "Hockey Heaven" when he and his mates FINALLY broke a 54-year-old hex and skated around the Garden with the Stanley Cup may have expedited this expected move.

"...He's always had a positive outlook for the New York Rangers," Sather continued. "I wanted to keep that tradition intact."

Indeed Richter had become to the Rangers what Ernie Banks and later Sammy Sosa have been to the Chicago Cubs: A classic goodwill ambassador.

Five straight losing seasons could have driven the talented Richter to more currently-prestigious addresses, such as replacing the recently departed Ed Belfour in Dallas. Or possibly, ulp, back home to Broad and Pattison in South Philadelphia.

But the Stars were unloading Belfour knowing their talented goalies had youth on their side. And Flyers General Manager Bob Clarke has remained foursquare behind streaky Roman Cechmanek.

"My biggest fear -- and I told Glen this at the end of the season," Richter said to Dellapina, "was that this is a very competitive league and we had gotten ourselves in a position where we couldn't improve."

So Sather signs Richter, a 14-year vet, and he rejoins the roster of the N.H.L.'s Senior Center.

Forwards Pavel Bure (31), Theo Fleury (34), Petr Nedved (31) join with defensemen Brian Leetch (34), Vladimir Malakhov (34) and Sylvain Lefebvre (35) ... and, Sather hopes in a couple of weeks, 41-year-old Mark Messier.

Hockey's Wheeze kids? Well, the Rangers have at least a few talented 30ish types in this week's star acquisitions Bobby Holik (31) and Darius Kasparitis (29).

Damn the wheelchairs, by crackie, Richter will say. Full speed ahead!

"No matter what you're paid, you have to go play as hard as you can," he told Larry Brooks of the New York Post. "(You have to) try and earn your keep every night. I guess I feel I have a bit to prove, but that shouldn't be a surprise."

Drop the puck NOW, the old folks are ready! And just for good measure, Sather is in the mix to sign Blackhawks free agent Tony Amonte, a former Ranger.

Hey, he's only 30. Ahhhh, youth.

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