A full set of new equipment was waiting for Brad Richardson when he made the jump to major junior and joined the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack in 2001.
Helmet, mouth guard, shoulder pads, elbow pads, hockey pants, sticks, gloves, shin pads, skates and jerseys.
After four seasons on the Attack, collecting 213 points (87-126-213) in 208 games literally on the attack, Richardson split the 2005-06 season between the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters and the Colorado Avalanche.
The 28-year-old has now played 442 NHL games between three teams and while his helmet, jersey, hockey pants, gloves, sticks and skates have changed, what’s underneath hasn’t.
For the past 13 years Richardson has been using the same shoulder, elbow and shin pads.
And the same mouth guard.
I don’t blame you for cringing, I did too.
“People are going to think I’m disgusting,” laughed Richardson. “I don’t change my gear if I don’t have to. I just hate new equipment, I hate breaking stuff in.”
Richardson has been forced to change helmets as safety protocol has changed; jerseys, socks, pants and gloves change with the team he’s on. That’s all out of his control and he doesn’t like it.
He’s a man of comfort and there’s nothing more comfortable than familiarity.
Taking an elbow pad down from his stall, Richardson handled it like an ancient artifact.
“They’re hanging on for life. They don’t make this style anymore. As you can see it’s been sewn a few times, it’s just hanging on by a piece of fabric. There’s some wear and tear. I don’t undo the straps because the Velcro might not go back together.”
The shin pads are worse, believe it or not.
“They’ve got some foam in there, I put my own foam in cause all the original stuff was worn out and gone a long time ago. I put new caps on them. They’re alright, they get the job done.”
The foam he speaks of is the yellow/orange variety found in your common couch cushion, raising the question of just how MacGyver Richardson has gone to keep his equipment alive.
The shoulder pads resemble the remains of a gazelle that took a wrong turn and ran into a pack of hyenas; skin and bones draped on hooks in his stall.
“If I were to change, I’d probably look like a two-year-old in a snowsuit, just a block out there, not moving. I just hate breaking in new, stiff equipment.”
Turns out, Richardson is not alone.
Mike Santorelli had a frown on his face when I approached to get his take on Richardson’s antique equipment and, ironically, it was because he had just practiced with new gloves and skates and he too “hates breaking in new equipment.”
“For me to always get new gloves and skates is annoying, they’re so stiff and I just feel so restricted," said Santorelli. "If it was up to me, I think I would use the same equipment forever. I’m not judging, I understand where he’s coming from.”
Oh, I forgot to mention Richardson has also been using the same mouth guard for 13 years…
“Woah. I’m judging him on the mouth guard. I’d change that for sure.”
Doing a tour of the dressing room, it seems most Canucks still rock a piece of equipment or two that passed its expiry date long ago.
The mouth guard, that’s another story all together.
“That’s disgusting,” smiled Kevin Bieksa. “Elbow pads can be washed, I’ve had my shoulder pads for probably 15 years as well, since college, shin pads…that’s disgusting, because your legs are probably the things that get the most sweaty and stink the most.
“I think the mouth guard is the most alarming of all though. Ask any dental hygienist, I’m not an expert, but I think bacteria multiplies over time.”
“It’s not even a mouth guard anymore,” said Richardson, pulling a grey rubbery ‘mouth guard’ out of his kit. “I chew on it. It’s there, it’s cracked, I don’t know if it does anything, it’s just there, it’s more for show. It’s got a hole in it, it’s so thin and dirty.”
In conclusion: “you know what, he’s got a pretty dirty mouth, I guess we can just sum it up to that,” said Bieksa.
“Don’t kiss him, he’s the last guy I’d make out with on the team.”
As for the worn and torn equipment, don’t expect Richardson to change it anytime soon.
“There’s no way I’ll stop using this stuff, even when I’m done and 60, I’ll still be playing in the same gear. It’ll either eventually just disintegrate or it’ll come in my casket,” said Richardson.
“Until then, I’ll keep using Febreze.”
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