Putting all his cards on the table, New Westminster Salmonbellies’ president and general manager has regularly staked his hopes and energy on getting another Mann Cup banner into the Queen’s Park Arena rafters.
He believes the lineup this season can get them back to the national final.
It would be the perfect ending to a long run, he said, as Richardson told the Record on Monday that this year will be his last heading the organization he holds dear.
“It’s been 16 seasons (as general manager), and the (club’s) 130th anniversary, so I think it’s time for some new blood,” said Richardson. “My wife (Linda) and I have our first grandson, my other son is getting married later this year, and I want to spend more time with them and travel a bit while I can.”
Family played a large role in Richardson pursuing his passion of lacrosse, and rightfully so is the main reason he’s decided to step down at the end of this season.
Having just finished his first season as general manager of the Vancouver Warriors, the National Lacrosse League team operated by Canucks Sports and Entertainment, who also own the NHL hockey club, Richardson says each require a full-time commitment.
Running a Western Lacrosse Association team as well, one that is expected to compete not just locally but also nationally, has taken on more time. Four trips to the Mann Cup championships, the most recent in 2017 when New West fell 4-2 to Peterborough, has left some unfinished business.
“When I took over the club we had three real goals that were to put the pride back in the organization, fill the arena and win a Mann Cup. We’ve done well on the first two fronts and come close on the third.
“We’re in a much better position than when I took over – the organization is strong financially and we have a good young core of players to keep this competitive for a while. We have the horses to get to (a Mann Cup) this year.”
Richardson anticipates his team, which has gotten off to a slow, 1-2 start after last Thursday’s 8-7 loss to Maple Ridge, will come together very quickly with the anticipated return to action of scoring leader Logan Schuss, veteran defender Ian Hawksbee and hometown star Kevin Crowley in the coming days.
A Mann Cup title? That’s still the goal, but as any B.C. team knows, is a difficult wish to pin down.
Yet, from the first time he ever saw a lacrosse game, he realized the game had a magical draw.
“When my family moved here from Powell River in ’68 I had never even seen the thing, then my dad came home one day and told me and my brother that he was taking us to a lacrosse game,” Richardson recalled. “That was my initiation into lacrosse, the playoffs of ’68 with New West playing Detroit. I absolutely fell in love with the game.
“I begged my dad to take us back.”
He would go on to play 32 games with New West between 1978 and ’80.
Taking on the managing role in 2003, after serving a handful of years on the executive, soon became a full-time pursuit as he toiled to get the ‘Bellies back into the playoff picture and the Mann Cup race. They’ve competed in four national championships, including 2008-10, but fell short of adding an historic 27th banner.
He feels the players and coaching staff assembled are capable of getting it done this time.
And while he’s in the negotiation stage with the Warriors regarding a second season as a NLL general manager, the result of that deal won’t affect his decision to resign in New West.
“It’s time we give somebody else a chance to pick up the torch,” he said. “It’s a very sad day for me, but I want to be able to enjoy time with my family, and do some travelling with my wife.”
He’s working with the ‘Bellies executive to help find a successor – or two, as he believes the positions of president and general manager should be handled by two people, with each role requiring separate responsibilities. Richardson also said he will continue to support the club, serving in an advisoral role, once a successor has been named.
Just as he’s helped created a family atmosphere at Queen’s Park – building a strong link with the minor association, bringing in such special events as Seats for Soldiers and support for Honour House – it’s family that will be the deciding factor going forward.
And as much as he’s still focused on that Mann Cup goal, every day Richardson anticipates spending time with 18-month-old Lochlan, the grandson whom he’s adorned in Salmonbellies’ and Boston Bruins’ swag.
“My wife has been so supportive of me, of this lacrosse thing, but we’d like to enjoy life and do a little travelling. And now with the grandson, it’s like I’m rushing home every day hoping that he’s there. … My wife and I can’t spend enough time with the little guy.”