Jason Richardson, who has spent his basketball career in such cold-weather climates as Phoenix and now Orlando, grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. And when he was a kid, he wanted to be…. Jarome Iginla? Or maybe Mario Lemieux?
He wanted to play in the NHL more than the NBA. That’s what he told the Orlando Sentinel.
“Definitely, I liked it. I could score, but you couldn’t really hit people,” he said, laughing. “We couldn’t check, but I found a way to bump into kids and make them fall over.”
But finances ended his NHL dream. He was in a family of six children growing up without a father. His mother was the breadwinner, working at Toys ‘R’ Us and Red Lobster while also attending school.
“My feet just kept growing, like size 12 or 13,” said the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Richardson. “It’s hard to find skates that big. You had to get them custom-made.
“We didn’t come from a wealthy family, and there were hard times. My mother always found ways to make ends meet, but some of those skates cost hundreds of dollars.”
He adds something that Gary Bettman would love to hear — he didn’t think of color as a barrier to hockey.
“We were the type of kids in my neighborhood who played everything — hockey, golf, basketball, football. We didn’t look at hockey like it was a black or white sport,” he said. “I loved the game. And being from Michigan, we always had frozen water.
“Some people used to laugh at us, man. It’s uncommon for black kids playing hockey even today. They look at it as a predominately white sport. We didn’t discriminate, as long as the sport was fun.”