By Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
It’s a day that Teddy Richards knew was coming, and he never had a doubt how it would be spent.
On Wednesday, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins confirmed that Richards, who is a former equipment manager with the AHL team and served in Pittsburgh as an assistant equipment manager until taking the lead job in Florida this summer, will be bringing the Stanley Cup to Wilkes-Barre on Sept. 7 at Public Square.
Richards always knew when his day with the Stanley Cup arrived, he would bring it to his hometown of Wilkes-Barre.
“You get one day, one chance and one place. I chose to bring the Cup to my hometown of Wilkes-Barre,” Richards said. “For me, it’s coming full circle.”
Richards is the first Wilkes-Barre native to have his name on the Stanley Cup, and his link to the Penguins actually began in 1999 when his father, Tedd, was the bus driver for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In 2002 Richards became the team’s assistant equipment manager before taking over the head equipment manager in 2006. Richards joined Pittsburgh’s staff as an assistant in 2013 before taking the head equipment manager job for the Florida Panthers this summer.
Almost immediately after Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup win on June 12, Richards’ summer turned into a whirlwind. Four days after the win Florida called offering a job, and Richards quickly accepted the opportunity to climb the career ladder.
Since then, Richards’ life has been hectic as he and his wife searched for a new home in Florida, enrolled their two children in a new school and made the 17-hour drive from Pittsburgh to start their new life.
But in the back of his mind, Richards knew his day with the Cup would be on the horizon.
“When we found out the day and times I talked with (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton CEO) Jeff Barrett about how we could collectively make the most of the day,” Richards said. “I’m very proud to be from Wilkes-Barre and I wanted to share the Cup with the community.”
But first, Richards will start the day by sharing the Cup with his family at a Wyoming Valley cemetery where his father, who passed away in 2001, is buried.
From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Richards will have the Stanley Cup at Public Square to share it with fans, take it to an event for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton season ticket holders later in the day and wrap up his time with a private gathering for close friends and family. To accommodate Richards, Martz Trailways has donated a bus to transport his family around Wilkes-Barre for the day.
This will mark the second time the Stanley Cup has come to Wilkes-Barre, the last being in 2009 when Pittsburgh won it for the third time in franchise history. In 2009 the Cup was brought to the Mohegan Sun Arena and shared with fans during a game. Barrett said Dan Bylsma, a former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach who coached the Penguins to their 2009 Stanley Cup, was instrumental in bringing the trophy to Wilkes-Barre that year.
This trip is a bit different, Barrett said.
“It’s Teddy’s day and he’s actually giving it up to us for events on Public Square and with season ticket holders,” Barrett said, adding this year’s appearance is also due in part to the numerous contributions made by former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton players to Pittsburgh’s championship.
“We requested the Cup, and Pittsburgh obviously has a tremendous amount of respect for everything Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has done,” Barrett said.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli, team captain Tom Kostopoulos and possibly other players are expected to appear at the Public Square event, as is Richards’ younger brother, Josh, who is an equipment assistant with the Dallas Stars.
But for Richards, the magnitude of the upcoming day and the fact he will have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup still hasn’t sunk in.
“It seems surreal and I don’t know at what point it will seem real,” Richards said. “But it’s not so much about me as it is for my kids. After all the missed birthday parties and school events during my career, this will help them understand why those sacrifices were made. When my name is on the Cup, it’s something that my kids will be able to show their kids, and that means the most to me.”