(Tampa, FL) — This time, no flight issues were going to stop Tanner Richard from making his much anticipated NHL debut.
Richard, 23, is expected to be in the lineup tonight against the Red Wings to play his first game. He led the post-morning skate stretch, getting stick taps from Lightning teammates.
“It’s going to be pretty amazing,” Richard said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, as long as I remember.”
Richard’s wait became painfully longer last weekend. He was called up Saturday and was scheduled to make his debut in Edmonton. But a flight delay in New York forced him to miss his connection in Minneapolis.
Richard said he fell asleep on his morning flight in New York, woke up a couple hours later thinking he was there. But a passenger told him they hadn’t even left, waiting on the tarmac while the plane got de-iced.
“Saturday was a bit of a tough day, I’m not going to lie,” Richard said. “Getting your hopes up, getting told you’re going to play in the NHL for the first time. I was pretty excited and then missing my connection. I was pretty devastated.”
Richard, a third round pick in 2012, got off to a strong start in Syracuse, with 17 points in the first 22 games. He admitted it was a bit tough to wait his turn, being the fourth forward called up by the Crunch. Richard, who got called up on Dec. 19 the past two seasons without playing, joked “the third time is the charm.”
“I’ve been told I was close, and just to keep getting better, keep developing and my chance will come,” Richard said. “And I’m glad it came today.”
Richard hopes to bring a little bit of grit to the Lightning, playing on a fourth line with Brayden Point and J.T. Brown.
“I’m pretty hated by most teams in the AHL,” Richard said. “I guess that kind of tells me I’m doing an all right job of being a little rat. So I plan on doing exactly that tonight.”
Richard said the blessing of his whirlwind weekend is that he gets to have some supporters in the stand, his girlfriend Andriana, her uncle Mike.
Quipped Richard: “I’ll have about half of Switzerland will be up watching at 3 a.m. tonight.”