When one door closes, another opens.
After 12-and-a-half seasons in the NLL, Roughnecks backup goaltender Tyler Richards is putting away the pads. But it’s the beginning of a new chapter for the league vet, as he continues his tenure with the organization in a new role as the Roughnecks goaltending coach for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve done it for so long and it’s really been such a huge part of my identity that it was definitely sad making the decision to retire,” Richards said. “But the last couple of years I’ve worked with Delbs (Christian Del Bianco) and watching him grow and mentoring him really got me excited to see where this is going to go.
“The relationship that Christian and I have together played a huge role in taking this job.”
With a career spanning over a decade and four teams, Richards has a lot to look back on and be proud of – including two championships under his belt in 2010 with the Washington Stealth, and 2019 with the Riggers.
“I have a couple of great memories,” Richards said. “To be able to play against my idol growing up, Bob Watson, in the two championships I played in Washington against Toronto was pretty special for me. To beat him the one year and lose the second year and have that be his last game. We went toe-to-toe for 60 minutes and ultimately it was one of the best games I ever played.
“But I think my favourite memory would be winning with Calgary despite being on the bench. The group we have is just so special. The way the guys accepted me after taking a year off lacrosse is something I never thought would happen for me again. To be able to come back and be a part of that, I was so grateful for that opportunity. It was a career highlight.
“Almost getting in a fight one time is up there, too,” Richards laughed.
With three young goaltenders attending training camp in Adam Bland, Justin Geddie and Landon Kells, Richards will have his work cut out for him. But he’s excited for the opportunity to shape the future of goaltending in the league.
“The three kids coming in are an average age of 21 so it was a no brainer to stick with Calgary and see what we can do,” he said. “I’ve already had them all on a zoom together just trying to build that bond and start the communication.
“For me, there are two different reasons I accepted the position. One, I think I can help build their lacrosse career, I think I can teach them a few things that make their transition into the NLL a lot easier. Two, I really want to talk to them about what it means to be a man and not just focus on the lacrosse-related things but be a mentor to them and be able to provide them some life direction as well. I think if we can focus on life stuff, being a good human and being a good teammate, it’s going to transition well to being a really solid goaltender.”
Richards will face a bit of a learning curve settling into his new role but is confident the adjustment should be a smooth one.
“I see the game a little bit differently I feel as a goaltender and having been around the block and playing in big moments,” he said. “When Curt (Malawsky) called me and asked me to come on the coaching staff knowing that I didn’t have prior coaching experience, he talked a lot about the leadership I brought to the team and the things I was able to do despite not playing all that much. It was almost like I was in that coaching role for the last two years as it was – I think I’ve only played nine minutes in the past two years. I was already somewhat into that role before and they saw the value I could bring to the team.”
Richards will be working with some of the smartest lacrosse minds in the game in head coach Curt Malawsky, and assistant coaches Bob McMahon and Brian Beisel. They will be valuable mentors as he steps behind the bench.
“I’m excited to see what it looks like behind closed doors,” said Richards. “Curt’s got a lot of passion and so much knowledge and experience I’m excited to learn from him. Being inexperienced I’m just going to try and be a sponge and help where I can. There’s so many young guys coming in, goalies and players, it’s going to be all hands on deck at training camp. I’m excited to see their process and they’ve had a lot of success combined in the league, so there’s a lot for me to learn.”
The job also allows Richards to continue to be a part of something incredibly important to him, his team.
“When I told the guys I was moving out of the player role into a coaching role, the number of messages I got from everybody and phone calls – there were tons of guys that were so happy I was staying,” he said. “What we have in Calgary as a room, it’s special and having been a part of a number of different teams across the league, I recognize what we have. There’s no place I’d rather be, whether playing or coaching.
“I’ve missed it so much, not just being around the guys but being around the atmosphere that happens in Calgary. I’ve been to every arena in the league and there’s nothing like playing in the Rough House. Whether you’re the home team or a visitor the atmosphere our fans bring is outstanding and I just honestly can’t wait to be back around, and be back with the fans in Calgary.”