AS HIS PEERS IN HIS NATIVE FLOURTOWN, Pa., enjoyed the normal
indulgences of teenage life, Mike Richter would tether himself to the
patio of his home, repeating drill after tedious drill on a goalie
sliding board he had bought to simulate the ice that never seemed to
be available in his area. Ultimately, the virtual absence of local
youth hockey programs at his level would force him to travel to
weekend tournaments hundreds of miles away and later compel him to
attend Northwood prep in upstate New York to find some decent
Until this season, consistent ice time had always been hard to
come by for the 27-year-old Richter. Despite having been regarded as
one of the sport's brightest young goaltenders since joining the New
York Rangers in 1989-90, Richter had been platooned with John
Vanbiesbrouck, never starting more than 42 games in a season. In
1992-93 Richter hit his nadir, finishing with a 13-19-3 record and
even being banished to the minors for two weeks. An even greater blow
to him was then coach Roger Neilson's questions about his
professionalism. ''Roger seemed to be divesting in me,'' Richter said
shortly after being sent to the Rangers' minor league team in
Binghamton, N.Y., in January 1993.
His savior would be Mike Keenan, who was hired the day after the
Rangers' season ended in April 1993. Before last June's expansion
draft, New York traded Vanbiesbrouck to the Vancouver Canucks, ending
the two goaltenders' increasingly uneasy partnership. Keenan would
then use the same tough-love approach with Richter that he had used
to turn Ed Belfour into one of the league's top goaltenders for the
Chicago Blackhawks. Keenan pulled Richter from 11 games during the
regular season, but, more important, he started him 68 times. Even
after Richter lost his first four starts, Keenan stuck with him.
Richter responded with a team-record 20-game unbeaten streak.
''Mike was impenetrable,'' says his backup, Glenn Healy, ''and I
should know because I had the best seat in the house.''
The 31-year-old Healy was acquired five days after Vanbiesbrouck
was traded. Though he was a veteran goalie who had carried the New
York Islanders to the conference finals in 1993, Healy was used
primarily as a mop-up man for the Rangers, listed in your playoff
program as ''Mike Richter insurance.'' Moreover, he never complained
that Richter got the bulk of the playing time, and he proved
invaluable to the man he was playing behind. ''Let's face it,'' says
Healy. ''We need each other. When you don't have a goaltending coach
and you're a goalie for Mike Keenan, you need somebody else to bounce
things off. You need somebody else just to maintain your sanity.''
Along the way, Healy kept things loose around the New York bench
-- even during the playoffs. Moments after the New Jersey Devils had
scored their second goal in what turned out to be a 3-1 victory
over the Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, Keenan
ordered Healy to replace Richter. A clearly surprised Healy then
dispatched an equipment man to the dressing room. After an anxious
pause, referee Dan Marouelli skated to the Ranger bench thinking that
New York was stalling to dampen the Devils' momentum.
''Sorry, Dan, but I don't have my helmet,'' Healy explained.
''Why not?'' Marouelli asked.
''Because I don't play.''
This is an article from the June 22, 1994 issue