Defenseman Travis Richards, the last player remaining from the Grand Rapids Griffins’ inaugural 1996-97 squad, officially announced his retirement after 10 seasons with the franchise on Wednesday night.
Richards, 36, has played more games and seasons in Grand Rapids than any other professional athlete in the city’s history and, prior to his retirement, had the longest continuous stretch of service with one team of any active player in the American Hockey League.
“I have a lot of great memories and a lot of things I’m proud of,” said Richards. “The first is what we’ve built here in Grand Rapids, probably the top organization in minor league hockey. Every year, everyone knows we’re going to be good and are going to compete. To know that I was here for 10 years of that, it definitely makes me proud."
Richards became the second player to sign with the Griffins on July 26, 1996, and he departs as Grand Rapids’ all-time leader with 655 games played. He helped lead the Griffins to five division titles, four conference championship appearances and an IHL Turner Cup Finals berth (2000) during the last seven years.
“Travis has been an incredible ambassador for Griffins hockey here in Grand Rapids,” said general manager Bob McNamara. “He meant a lot to his teammates over the years, and he was the class of our organization. He epitomized what the Griffins are about.”
A mainstay on the Griffins’ blue line during the team’s first eight seasons, Richards was limited by injuries to 48 games since the start of the 2004-05 campaign. He played in 13 contests last season and earned an assist in his final game in a Griffins uniform, a 5-4 overtime win against Milwaukee at Van Andel Arena on Dec. 3, 2005.
In 2004, Richards was selected to captain the PlanetUSA team at the 2004 AHL All-Star Classic, held in Grand Rapids.
Richards, who represented the U.S. at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, spent three seasons in the Dallas organization before joining Grand Rapids, and appeared in three career NHL games with the Stars.