Rangers’ Richards helps Breezy Point recover from Sandy

Published On November 23, 2012 | By Meredith Perri

As the lockout continues, it seems like no good news can come out of the hockey world. Brad Richards, however,  has changed that for at least today.

After making a connection with Matt Long, a former firefighter who lost his leg back in 2005, during a team event, Richards made the offer to partner up with Long with any project he might need help with. Long took Richards up on that offer after he saw the amount of devastation that had hit his town of Breezy Point, Queens after Superstorm Sandy. This chance meeting culminated in Richards, along two of his teammates — Marian Gaborik and Steve Eminger — and a crew of 10 to 12 volunteers, making his way to Breezy Point to help clean up the area.

“There were no cameras, no one was watching,” Long said, according to ESPN. “It was just Brad Richards, down there getting dirty, ankle-deep in water, pouring garbage out of 100-year-old houses.”

While volunteering in Queens, Richards and his group of volunteers helped tear down and gut houses in Belle Harbor and Breezy Point. One of those homes belonged to Long’s brother Chris, whose wife is due to give birth in March.

“It was the first time he smiled since it happened,” Matt said of his brother Chris, who is a diehard Rangers fan.

For Richards, the lockout, while frustrating, gives him the opportunity to do something positive.

“We’re doing it because we can,” Richards said. “We’re in a position to do it and it’s fun for us. A lot of us don’t like talking about it. We want awareness for it because we want to get the numbers up, [but] guys do a lot of this stuff and it goes unnoticed.

“We just want to be part of the community. It’s a tough time for these guys.”

Richards has a history of spending time doing philanthropic work no matter where he was playing. While in Tampa, he worked with children who were diagnosed with cancer through his organization “Richy’s Rascals.” He purchased a suite for the entire season and would rent it out to families with children who were sick, but it went beyond that. Richards would stop in to visit the children in the hospital and get to know them.

“Hockey players can get a bad rap,” said Holley Wade, the mother of one of the children Richards spent time with. “People say, ‘Oh, they’re all 5-8, missing their front teeth and all they do is fight,’ but Brad was by far the most genuine, warm and caring individual that I’ve ever come across in any professional athlete.

“What you see him doing, it’s from the heart.”

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About The Author

Meredith is a junior journalism student at Boston University. She has covered nearly every sport for The Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student newspaper, but mainly writes about women’s hockey. Meredith has also covered Major League Baseball as an intern with SNY and MetsBlog.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mere579.