Chicago Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson will be keeping a close eye on Connor Bedard this season — both on and off the ice.
Richardson and Bedard — the No. 1 overall pick at this year’s NHL Draft — are living in the same apartment building in downtown Chicago.
Richardson recently told reporters in Chicago a funny story about Bedard finding a place to live in Chicago after speaking with his parents.
“I mentioned they were going to move into the same apartment building I was in. His mom went: ‘Well, we don’t want to get too far ahead. He’s got to make the team,” Richardson said with a chuckle. “I kind of looked at her and said: ‘I think you can look at this. He’ll be OK.’ So he did move in.
“Hopefully, he feels more comfortable,” Richardson added. “He has one teammate in there (Taylor Raddysh) and myself. So if he ever needs anything it’s a family and we’re there for each other.”
The Blackhawks practised Friday afternoon at the CN Sports Complex in Brossard ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. After practice, Richardson was asked more about the apartment building where he and the 18-year-old Bedard are living and the coach shared another funny story.
“We have Whole Foods (grocery story) underneath,” Richardson said. “I had the cart (recently) and I went up behind him and I was pushing it against his back. In downtown Chicago I could see him stepping to the side and he felt uncomfortable. Then he started to look … I pushed a little harder and he moved again. Then finally he turned around with big wide eyes and he saw me and he just smiled. I said: ‘Welcome to the building.’”
Richardson said Bedard’s mother helped him set up his new apartment and that his parents will be “in and out” to visit him this season as the teenager adjusts to life in the NHL. Bedard had a goal and an assist in Chicago’s first two games before facing the Canadiens.
“He’s still a young guy and it’s a big city, but we always offer anything we can and our organization is top-notch with that with any kind of help that’s needed,” Richardson said. “He has all the help that he needs, and Taylor Raddysh lives in the building as well, so he’s got a teammate in there and a couple (others) close by. I think my wife ran into him in the elevator a few times. She seems to be on the same schedule. I go in (to the rink) too early as a coach.
“It’s a great building,” Richardson added. “It’s brand new. It’s got Whole Foods in it. (Former Blackhawk) Patrick Kane said he used to shop there. He lived a couple of blocks away and said he never got bothered, so it’s a good spot for him.”
Richardson and Bedard both faced large media scrums after Friday’s practice. Richardson knows the Brossard practice rink well since he was an assistant coach with the Canadiens for four seasons before becoming head coach of the Blackhawks last year.
“He’s just really understanding with everything,” Bedard said about Richardson. “He doesn’t really get too mad at you if you make a mistake. He lets us all play. Obviously, there’s a structure that we want to play. But just the freedom to try to make plays and kind of incorporate my game into what we want to do I think has been really great for myself. He’s just made the transition a lot easier. He’s been great. I really like having him as a coach and we’re all really lucky.”
In the book former Canadiens equipment manager Pierre Gervais wrote, titled Tales From the Dressing Room, he wrote about the players being much closer with Richardson as an assistant coach than they were with former head coach Dominique Ducharme. Gervais wrote that Ducharme never “lost the room” because he never really had it and that the atmosphere in the locker room “changed completely from one day to the next” when Martin St. Louis took over as head coach.
“I think he’s just a really good coach in general,” the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher said about Richardson Friday. “Whether it’s a player like Connor — they also have (38-year-old former Canadien) Corey Perry — I think he’s just a good coach for everyone. He understands the game, he played the game for a really long time. He’s got the respect of his locker room instantly and he’s a real likable person that you want to work for. So everyone who’s had him as a coach has nothing but good things to say.
“You wish him the best and I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
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