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NBA’s Jason Richardson nearly became a hockey star

Jason Richardson is a high-flying, three-point-shooting star for the Orlando Magic but the NBA wasn’t always his first calling. While growing up in Saginaw, Michigan he played hockey as a kid as well as basketball. When you grow up in a place that’s home to an OHL team and a haven for Detroit Red Wings fans, it’s almost automatic that you’ll start off playing hockey.

For Richardson though, hockey wasn’t just a passing fancy and something else to do as a kid, he had a real interest in the game and it came naturally to him. Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel tells us that if things had gone a bit different, perhaps we’d be talking about Jason Richardson the Detroit Red Wing rather than NBA star.

“I really wanted to play in the NHL,” Richardson said. “At the time, I think there were only two or three African-American players. I wanted to be the fourth one.”

While Richardson was growing up, there really was a dearth of African-American players. That’s not the case so much anymore as we’ve seen times change with the rise of Jarome Iginla as captain of the Flames and Dustin Byfuglien in Atlanta as well as the emergence of youngsters like Wayne Simmonds of the L.A. Kings and P.K. Subban with the Canadiens.

What derailed Richardson’s dream?

But finances ended his NHL dream. He was in a family of six children growing up without a father. His mother was the breadwinner, working at Toys ‘R’ Us and Red Lobster while also attending school.

“My feet just kept growing, like size 12 or 13,” said the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Richardson. “It’s hard to find skates that big. You had to get them custom-made.

“We didn’t come from a wealthy family, and there were hard times. My mother always found ways to make ends meet, but some of those skates cost hundreds of dollars.”

It’s an unfortunate truth for anyone growing up that hockey is a costly game to play. Lord help parents whose kids grow up wanting to be goalies because the cost of pads, blockers, and trappers piles on to the cost of skates and sticks. Just think what it would’ve been like to have a 6’6″, 225-pound forward racing around the ice either as a slick-skating forward or a defensive force. Anyone that size in the NHL almost immediately gets noticed.

Stories like this never fail to entertain us because it brings in the whole, “What if?” factor. Think Michigan State, where Richardson went to college, would’ve loved to have him on the ice to win a National Championship? You better believe it and you’d better believe the Red Wings would love to have a forward or defenseman that big roaming the ice for them now. As it is, it’s all a fantasy situation but it’s great to read that even an NBA star grew up wanting to become a NHL star first.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”