When Russ Cohen, John Halligan and Adam Raider listed and ranked the all time great players for the New York Rangers in the 2009 book 100 Rangers Greats, many were really surprised to see Mike Richter ranked so high.
The authors determined he was the third greatest player in Rangers history, ahead of Mark Messier, Bill Cook and Eddie Giacomin. To hockey history fans, of which the three authors clearly are, that takes guts.
After all, Richter had 8 losing seasons out of 14 in his career, never was a league leader in GAA or save percentage or shutouts. His career win totals are small compared to his contemporaries.
Yet his high ranking was a welcome surprise, as many felt Richter never quite got the recognition he deserved. Statistics never tell the whole story He was a spectacular puck stopper, never more so than in 1994 in the Stanley Cup run or in 1996 at the World Cup. In both instances he almost single-handedly stole victory from the Vancouver Canucks and Team Canada, respectively. Even fans of the opposing teams were quickly and not necessarily secretly becoming huge fans of the man in the Statue of Liberty mask.
Yet, despite his impressive resume, he never seemed as highly regarded as peers Patrick Roy or Dominik Hasek or Eddie Belfour, and it continues as suggested by his exclusion from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Maybe he had some consistency issues, but many hockey fans in the 1990s will agree that he was the most exciting goalie of his era. He was a hybrid between the classic stand up goalie but with acrobatic reflexes. When he was on top of his game he was unbeatable. He was a Stanley Cup and World Cup champion. The three time Olympian (2002 silver medalist) has a legendary international record that ranks him as the best American goalie ever.
Serious injuries, including a fractured skull and serious concussion that forced him into retirement, wore him down too.
Mike was also a very interesting person off the ice. While he played at the University of Wisconsin, and took classes at Columbia while still playing. He returned to school after retiring, majoring in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale. He has shown a great interest in politics and has hinted at a run for congress some time in the future.