Mike Richter won a Stanley Cup tending goal for the New York Rangers in 1994 and led the United States to victory in the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996. But it was his current role as an environmental investment executive that sparked his appearance on "The NHL Hour With Gary Bettman" on Thursday -- coinciding with the unveiling of NHL Green, a year-round commitment to making the League and its clubs more ecologically responsible while educating fans and raising awareness of environmental issues.
"I don't know specifically where it came from," Richter said when asked by the Commissioner where his interest in environmental issues started, "just generally that I've always had that kind of connection to it. My mom was a product of the Depression, grew up and when you walked out of the room you turned out the lights, and I could never understand exactly why. Now that I'm paying the energy bills, I'm echoing exactly what she said to my kids.
"I fished and did all the things that young kids did in our era, and I think actually my 9-, 7- and 5-year-olds really don't have as many opportunities as we did just two or three decades ago -- the fishing holes that I used to go to probably now don't have fish, the ponds aren't freezing as much. There's differences, and I think anybody with a somewhat forward-looking attitude says, ‘Gee, I don't think we really want to leave the next generation with less of an environment than we found."
Hockey players are often lauded for their social consciousness, and many who grew up learning to love the game while playing on outdoor ponds and rinks have developed a passion for environmental issues because they want to see future generations receive the same opportunity.
"That's the root of our game, kids playing out on ponds," Richter said. "If they're melting earlier and freezing later, it really affects the future of our game. It's a totally different experience playing outside. I grew up in Philadelphia and I did it -- not a lot, but I did it, and it doesn't happen anymore. Those ponds don't freeze, and so I think there is that connection."
Richter explained the role of his work is not to make businesses the bad guy, but rather to introduce them to ways they might better serve the environment. That same general attitude applies to everyday individuals as well.
"I think the environmental messaging has just been horrible," Richter said. "The No. 1 thing, I'd say, is it's not about being perfect. We all will look to be there one day, but look: I drive a car, I leave lights on, I eat … everything I see in front of me, so I have a carbon, ecological footprint out there, as we all do. And I think there's a lot of ‘holier than thou' going on.
"The idea is to say 'what do we have out there that’s a better way of doing business than, I guess, business as usual.' There are options, and I’d say the No. 1 thing we need to do is educate people that there are other options out there."
-- Mike Richter
Fans can learn more about NHL Green by clicking the green button on NHL.com's home page.
Also joining Bettman as a guest was Florida Panthers Alternate Governor Bill Torrey, who addressed this week's hiring of Dale Tallon as team's new general manager. In the same role for the Chicago Blackhawks, Tallon helped build the team that now sits two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.
"Dale has a great eye for talent," Torrey said. "He has the right personality. He can sell. He's been a broadcaster. He has a good all-around hockey background. The partners here … are very excited about Dale. We've had several meetings together and he seems to have fit in really well."
Torrey said Tallon is currently in Germany, where the World Championships are taking place, discussing the current state of the team with coach Peter DeBoer and also making an effort to sign goaltender Jacob Markstrom, the 31st pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, who has been playing over in Sweden but is now ready to come over to North America. Tallon will be in Toronto next week for the NHL Scouting Combine.
"I'm very impressed with how excited he is," Torrey said. "As he said to me the other night, ‘Bill, when I started doing the makeover in Chicago, I didn't have as much as what we potentially have here.'"