Griffins’ Richards back for 10th year

When the Grand Rapids Griffins begin their 10th-anniversary season in October, Travis Richards will be slated to make his 10th consecutive opening-night appearance for the franchise. On Thursday, the Griffins announced the signings of Richards and fellow defenseman Greg Amadio to one-year contracts.

Richards, 35, has been with the Griffins organization since July 26, 1996, when he became the second player and first American to sign with the franchise. Grand Rapids’ all-time leader with 642 regular season games played, Richards boasts the longest continuous stretch of service for one team of any AHL player.

The Crystal, Minn., native is coming off a 2004-05 campaign in which he was limited to 35 games and four points (1g, 3a) due to a back injury. Fully recovered, Richards looks to resume a storied career that has garnered accolades such as the captaincy of the PlanetUSA squad at the 2004 AHL All-Star Classic and Second Team IHL All-Star honors in 2001.

The only player to appear in each of the Griffins’ 59 playoff contests, Richards ranks among the franchise’s regular season career leaders with a plus-123 rating (1st), 178 assists (2nd), 234 points (2nd), 24 power-play goals (3rd), 56 goals (4th) and 492 penalty minutes (6th).

Richards has played nearly his entire career in West Michigan. After representing the United States at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher made his pro debut with the IHL’s Kalamazoo Wings late in the 1993-94 season. He stayed with the Wings through the 1995-96 campaign, appearing in three NHL games with the parent Dallas Stars.

The 24-year-old Amadio originally signed with the Griffins on Jan. 29, 2005, just days after playing in the ECHL All-Star Game. As of his departure from the Columbia Inferno, he led the ECHL with a plus-23 rating and had logged a team-high 134 penalty minutes in 32 games.

Amadio, who made his AHL debut in a one-game cameo with the Manitoba Moose on Dec. 28, 2004, played in 35 of the Griffins’ final 38 games last season, contributing two assists and collecting 96 PIM.

A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Amadio was a three-time WCHA All-Academic selection during his collegiate career at Michigan Tech (1999-2003).

In addition to Richards and Amadio, players from Grand Rapids’ 2004-05 roster who are under contract to either the Griffins or Detroit Red Wings for the upcoming season include forwards Eric Himelfarb, Jiri Hudler and Eric Manlow, and defensemen Bryan Helmer, Brett Lebda and Derek Meech.