Off-topic: B-Rad's B-Day

The 1999-2000 season has come up a lot in my statistical reviews of Mathieu this year. Why? 'Cause that was a sucky season. From many statistical points of view, it was Mathieu's worst. After the season, my concerns were shared by the Rangers, who let Mathieu (an unrestricted free agent) get claimed in the Expansion Draft by the new Columbus Blue Jackets. To add insult to injury, the Blue Jackets only really claimed him to get the compensatory draft pick due to them should he sign elsewhere. Columbus first priority was not Mathieu, but another defenseman. Lyle Odelein. Seriously. How's that for a "kick me when I'm down" moment.

Mathieu did not sign with Columbus, and instead returned to his off-season home and signed with the Los Angeles Kings. Hmmm... he struggled on an underachieving, he was given up by said underachieving team to a brand new team that didn't really want him, and eventually found a home on a rebuilding team. Yup, I figured he was done.

But I held out hope, and continued to pull for my guy. I knew he had more in him and his proverbial "best years" were sure to come. But being a "prepare for the worst, hope for the best" kind of person, I set out to find a back up player to assume the "favorite" spot should Mathieu retire.

That was 9 years ago. And I was right about one thing: Mathieu's best years were to come. He experienced a resurgence in LA that would see him log his best offensive numbers in years, add an All-Star Game appearance to his résumé, and garner the attention of the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings who robbed the perpetually rebuilding Kings by snagging Mathieu in exchange for their young superpest, Sean Avery.

But whatever happened to my back-up? The rookie who caught my attention in 2000, and made enough of an impression on me that he vaulted to my #2 favorite? The guy who was not the biggest, not the most talented, and often overshadowed by his extremely gifted friend and teammate? The guy who jumped out of that shadow and lit up the QMJHL in that very season that Mathieu began to fade? The goofy looking kid with a toothy grin and unfortunate blond highlights?1

He played his first NHL game on opening night in 2000 at age 20, and never looked back.
  • He registered 62 points in his rookie season, and has hovered around a point per game ever since (recording his career high-- so far-- of 91 points in 2005-06).
  • At just barely 24 years old, he helped lead his team to a Stanley Cup, scoring 26 points (most of any player in the playoffs that year), and had 7 game winning goals (for perspective, if it takes 16 wins to skate with the Cup, he won just under half of those for his teams). Those 7 game winning goals are an NHL record for most GWG by one player in the playoffs. And as his team faced elimination in game 6 of the Finals, he scored two goals and assisted on the game winner in overtime.

  • For those accomplishments, he was the runaway winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy that year. (Sports Illustrated referred to those playoffs as his "Coming Out Party.")

  • He once won the Lady Byng Trophy for his "gentlemanly" play, and was nominated a second time.

  • Until some freak stuff in the last year, he was something of an "Iron Man," missing just 2 games in his first 7 seasons (and those were for a death in his family)
  • He gained a reputation for being a good man off the ice, donating not only money but time to various charities, especially those involving kids.

  • And somewhere along the way, he actually got kinda hot.2
He is, of course, Brad Richards. And today, May 2, 2009, he is 29 years old.3 Woo-hoo! Happy B-Day B-Rad!4

(for more on the lighter side of the pretty private B-Rad, see Myra's
"What I Learned about Brad Richards on My Summer Vacation" post from last summer.
It is her most viewed post all the time. A testament to the following B-Rad has.)

And to answer a question that I have gotten a lot lately-- why the Unofficial Mathieu Schneider HomePage and no Unofficial Brad Richards HomePage?-- well... 1) I wasn't as bored after I graduated from college in 2000 as I was between 1996-2000 when the Mathieu site was born and grew, 2) by the time I wasn't consumed with my Master's thesis in 2004, Brad was well on his way to super stardom, and I didn't want to look like a bandwagon jumper, and 3) he's a young, cute guy, and I didn't want to look like a "puck bunny." But this season, I thought "to Hell with it all" and decided to come out of the B-Rad closet.

1Substitute "OHL" for "QMJHL" and "mullet" for "blond highlights," and that description sounds a bit familiar doesn't it?

2Not my usual "type," but he has his "meow!" moments. =P

3At the risk of having my fandom questioned, I'll be honest... this is the first year I actually remembered his birthday. And I will never forget it now. Why? It happens to fall this year on, um, National Masturbation Day. Seriously. Last weekend I saw a poster advertising a, no lie, "Masturbate-a-thon" to honor National Masturbation Month (really!) and to raise money for a group that educates the public about sexual health. It is slated for May 2, and, between giggles (because I think I am perpetually 10 years old), my brain recognized that date. Why was May 2 a date that was familar? Oooohhhh.... that's why.

4Oh, and to answer a question I have actually received a lot, I verbalize that "BEE-rad," not "BUH-rad." And, yes, I have my own personal nickname for Mathieu. And no, I will not say what it is. I've kept his a secret for this many years, and I'm not about to say it now. Maybe when he does actually retire....

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