Former Michigan women’s basketball forward Jeanne Richmond knew immediately that her son, Danny, had no business following in her footsteps.
When Danny and his twin sister, Jenny, were growing up, they played some intense games of one-on-one, and it was Jenny that was “always able to get around Danny.”
“His only defense was to hack,” Jeanne said. “He clearly didn’t have a future in basketball.”
Sometimes, the entire family would come together on the hardwood at their Buffalo Grove, Ill. gym. Steve Richmond, Danny’s father and a former Michigan hockey defenseman, combined with Danny to create the family’s own version of the “bad boys.”
“Mom comes out and she can just destroy us,” said Danny, who will be a freshman at Michigan in the fall. “I didn’t get that gene from her, that went to my sister. I’m kind of a hack out there. It’s more like hockey on a basketball court – full contact.”
Steve and Jeanne met at Michigan during their freshman year in 1979 when he came to her dorm and introduced himself. During the next four years, he would leave his mark on the Michigan record books as the only blueliner to lead the team in scoring in a season (54 points in 1980-81). He also holds the record for most career goals by a Michigan defenseman with 40. Jeanne, unlike her future husband, didn’t integrate offense into her game. She was told by her coach during her freshman season to “never shoot the ball again.” Jeanne had to accept her role as a defensive specialist and eventually became the player whose main role was to set picks for the Wolverines’ leading scorer.
With a such a defensive, maize-and-blue combination, it’s no surprise that Danny will join the Wolverines this fall on the ice as one of the most talented defensive recruits in the country.
“(Defense) is not much glory, but I’ll tell you, both Steve and I have come from that kind of background,” Jeanne said. “Defensive play was really stressed in the sports we played and that kind of rubbed off on Danny too.”
Danny led the United States Hockey League’s Chicago Steel in scoring last season with eight goals and 45 assists in 56 games and was the league’s top scoring defenseman in just his first season in what Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers called “as good of a junior league as there is.”
“The instincts that he has are really not something you teach,” said Steve, who was Danny’s coach last year with the Steel. “He was always taught when he was younger to use his offensive skills that he has. He’s worked at it, and luckily, coaches let him play and be creative.”
The Michigan coaching staff is planning to give Danny free reign and let his instincts take over when the Wolverines take the ice this fall. Powers, who recruited Danny, is looking forward to having him along with sophomore Eric Werner as two “play-making offensive defensemen.”
“He had great poise and presence on the ice,” Powers said. “He just competed so hard – he was ferocious. He had the puck a lot and loved to be creative with it, and he was good at it. When he didn’t have it, he wanted it back so badly that he’d do anything to get it.”
“At this time in the game, I don’t think it’s necessary to be a 6-foot-5 defenseman who can’t really move well,” Danny said. “There’s not really a place for that. You’ve got to be able to move the puck, not just wing it around the boards every time.”
Steve, who played for the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings during his nine-year NHL career, said that it would be difficult to give differences or compare the way that he and Danny play. But he fully admitted that Danny is the swifter of the two and that “there is no comparison” in their offensive skills, which should be a scary thought for the rest of the CCHA.
“I think Danny’s more of a finesse player, although he has that same toughness that Steve had,” Jeanne said. “I think Danny is probably a little bit more skilled offensively. He has wonderful hands. Defensively, he’s very, very sound and he does like to get into the mixups.”
His mixups earned him 129 penalty minutes last season, averaging more than a penalty per game. Richmond thinks it’s important that people are afraid to play against him and has always tried to match the intensity that characterized his father’s style.
Steve and Danny have a relationship that maybe only Bobby Nystrom and his son, Eric, a Michigan sophomore, could understand. Danny has been a “rink rat” his entire life, following his dad from NHL lockerrooms to his various coaching jobs. Last season was the first time since Danny was young that Steve played the dual-role of father and coach.
“He was treated like all my players,” Steve said. “You treat them all like your kids. What made it smooth was we never brought it back to the house.
“Obviously, hockey brings us a little closer and the same with Bobby and Eric. It makes you closer because you feel the ups and downs and when he’s having a tough time and you can sympathize, or you can give him a kick in the pants. We’re close because we spend so much time together.”
Steve wants his son to experience everything for himself and is trying hard not to talk about the unforgettable sensation of stepping on the ice at Yost Arena with the band playing and the fans on their feet.
“I get goosebumps thinking about it,” Steve said. “I’m not much of an emotional guy, and he has no idea what’s in store for him. It’s a feeling you can’t describe and it never goes away. I can think about games I played in 1979 with the crowd and the feeling. It’s incredible.”
In less than three months, that feeling will be shared.