Tanner Richard spent his childhood looking up to Steve Yzerman. So it was only fitting that the hockey hall of famer and current general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning welcomed Richard into the National Hockey League this past summer.
Tampa Bay used their third pick in this year’s NHL entry draft to select Tanner Richard from the Guelph Storm, and for good reason. Richard capped off his rookie campaign finishing fifth in Storm scoring, notching 48 points in 43 games in a season cut short by injury.
Regardless of his injury, the Lightning saw tremendous upside in the Canadian born, Swiss raised playmaker. To say that June 22, 2012 was a big day for the Guelph Storm would be a gross understatement, as Tanner Richard joined Storm teammates Matt Finn and Scott Kosmachuk in making the big time.
For Richard, sharing that experience with his teammates was a big deal.
“Being there and getting drafted with those guys was a lot of fun,” Richard says. “Getting to share that with them after playing together all season was a great experience.”
Draft day marked the start of a busy summer for Richard. While he spent the better part of the summer months training for his sophomore season in Guelph, he also spent a week in Tampa Bay, Florida at the Lightning’s rookie development camp before finally returning home to Switzerland to visit with family and friends.
“It was a crazy summer,” Richard says. “I was training a lot, and I got to go down to Tampa for a week and work out with the other rookies and meet some of the hockey staff there. I was busy, but I had a lot of fun.”
“After the draft things definitely started to pick up.”
Tampa Bay knew what they were getting when they drafted Richard; a quick-footed playmaker with soft hands and a scorer’s touch who isn’t afraid to engage in the rough stuff.
It’s a safe bet that many of those traits were probably inherited from Richard’s father Mike, who played professional hockey from 1986 until 2007 making stops in the AHL, NHL, and Swiss league along the way.
“My dad was a professional hockey player, and we moved to Switzerland when I was about 4 months old,” Richard says. “Growing up, I got to watch him play and I definitely learned how committed and determined you have to be to make it and excel at that top level.”
According to Richard’s mother Christi, Tanner didn’t get his start on the ice like most other kids.
“Tanner and his best friend Yves used to play roller hockey at the age of 3 on the basketball court where we lived,” she says. “They would stay out there for hours and played with the older boys every Saturday. Tanner lived on his rollerblades because he could use them all year round. “
Christi Richard also remembers just how hectic those early years could be.
“It was exhausting but elating! My husband was playing then and had a very busy weekend schedule of games and practices, which meant I was pretty much on my own to handle the boys’ hockey. Tanner has a younger brother who used to cry every time we went to the early morning skates because he wanted to play, too.”
Richard had no shortage of role models growing up, either.
“Growing up, I would have to say that Steve Yzerman was a big influence on Tanner,” Christi says. “He is a hockey legend who always played his game and never had his name tarnished in the newspapers. He is a true gentleman and a great ambassador for the sport of hockey.”
“Tanner also spent a huge amount of time at the rink with his dad. Mike would regularly bring Tanner to the arena and into the dressing room to be among the other players. He even used to let Tanner and his brother go out onto the ice with him for optional practices as they got older.”
In the midst of an extended NHL lockout, Tanner Richard doesn’t know what the future holds. In the meantime, he’s distraction-free and 100% focused on winning games for the Guelph Storm.
“This is a good team,” Richard says. “We’ve developed together through adversity and have become a stronger team because of it. Nothing comes easy but I think we’re ready to win, and I think that we can compete with the OHL’s stronger teams all year long.”
Second in Storm scoring this season, Tanner Richard will have to continue to lead by example if Guelph hopes to come out on top of a stacked Midwest Division. It’s obvious to anyone that knows Richard that he’s up to the challenge.
Storm Stories is a Guelph Storm original weekly feature for the 2012-13 season spotlighting current Storm Players and giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the player’s lives on and off the ice.
Rich Davidson is a freelance hockey writer covering the Guelph Storm this season. Follow Rich’s work at: