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Hockey|A Ranger Rolls Up His Sleeves and Takes a Big Role in Hurricane Relief


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A Ranger Rolls Up His Sleeves and Takes a Big Role in Hurricane Relief

By JEFF Z. KLEINNOV. 22, 2012

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Photo Brad Richards helped organize a skating clinic at a rink in Staten Island’s Tottenville section. Credit Mary DiBiase Blaich for The New York Times

Brad Richards, the son of lobster fishers in Prince Edward Island, joined the Rangers just 17 months ago, but he is definitely a New Yorker now. In the days after Hurricane Sandy, he has been a frequent volunteer in hard-hit parts of the city, gutting flood-damaged homes in Queens and helping to organize a benefit hockey clinic on Staten Island.

It is work he has let others speak for, work he has not wanted treated like a celebrity photo opportunity. On Saturday, Richards will help make a public contribution, serving as a team captain in a charity game in Atlantic City to benefit families affected by the hurricane. Called Operation Hat Trick, it will feature a star-studded lineup that includes Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist, Daniel Alfredsson and Steven Stamkos.

In terms of talent, it will almost certainly be the best hockey game played in North America during the N.H.L. lockout. The proceeds will go to the Empire State Relief Fund, New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and the American Red Cross.

Several local professional teams have raised money for Hurricane Sandy relief, through donations, auctions, community events or volunteer work. But with the N.H.L. lockout separating teams and their players, Richards, his teammates and others are doing relief work and organizing events without the operational support of a club or league.


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The game in Atlantic City was organized by Todd Fedoruk, a former Flyer, and Richards was a natural fit.

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Richards, whose apartment in TriBeCa escaped damage from the storm, said this was “what anyone in my position should do.”

“We’re using what we do to help,” he added. “People are coming in from all over North America and even from Europe to play, to do something that really matters.”

A coveted free agent in 2011, Richards signed with the Rangers for nine years and $60 million, saying he wanted to prove himself in a big market and to play closer to his family in eastern Canada. “I love being in New York, and I love the whole area,” said Richards, who previously played in Tampa Bay and Dallas. “And to be able to help out, that’s just perfect.”

Though he has used his Twitter feed as a platform to promote the needs of the affected communities, he is reluctant to draw attention to his own work. He agreed to an interview this week to talk about the Atlantic City game on condition that he not be asked about his other volunteer work.

The Rangers were looking for that type of leadership when they pursued him. Those who have worked alongside Richards are less reserved. Matthew Long, a retired New York firefighter, lost his Breezy Point home in a fire and learned that Richards wanted to help. Long told Richards that his own home was beyond repair, but others could be salvaged.

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“Brad told me, ‘I just want to come down there and work,’ ” Long said. “He said, ‘I don’t want any Rangers paraphernalia, I’m not going to have any media follow me. If someone knows who I am and I bring a smile to their face, great. If not, I’d rather make them smile just helping people.’ ”

Richards was joined by his Rangers teammates Marian Gaborik, whose TriBeCa home is still a month or more from being habitable because of storm damage, and Steve Eminger in gutting flood-damaged houses on a crew that included a pharmaceutical salesman, a policeman, a fireman and a financial worker. Using sledgehammers and crowbars, they spent a day earlier this month gutting two Breezy Point homes submerged in three to four feet of water down to the frame.

Richards asked to come back another day, so Long organized a similar expedition to clean up two more homes in Belle Harbor in the Rockaways.


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“We talked about living in New York and how much he loves it and wants to stay here after his playing days are over,” Long said.

Last week Richards helped on Staten Island, thanks to a suggestion from Steve Rose, a policeman he knows from Lower Manhattan whose son plays on the St. Joseph by-the-Sea hockey team in the borough.

They organized a skating clinic at a rink in Staten Island’s Tottenville section, and Richards brought along his teammates Gaborik, Eminger, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Carl Hagelin, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman, Jeff Halpern and Taylor Pyatt.

“The response we got from the people of Staten Island was just incredible,” Rose said. “We raised over $14,000 in a four-hour span. It was just phenomenal.”

After the clinic, Richards, Eminger, Gaborik, Hagelin, Girardi and Callahan went to the Yellow Hook Grille in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is owned by Long’s brother, to serve as bartenders at another Hurricane Sandy benefit. The bar was packed, and the players stayed until midnight, raising $15,000.

“To be honest, it was unbelievable,” Long said. “The place was so crowded, and the guys worked alongside the bartenders the whole time, signing autographs, shaking hands. The chants — ‘Let’s go, Rangers,’ ‘We want the Cup’ — it was so loud. It was a night to remember.”

A version of this article appears in print on November 23, 2012, on Page B12 of the New York edition with the headline: A Ranger Rolls Up His Sleeves and Takes a Big Role in Hurricane Relief. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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