Whenever she laces up her skates and steps out onto the rink, respect for the game and for other players is one of the main priorities for Heather Richards.
And, now, the 21-year-old St. Anthony native is being honoured for her sportsmanship as the recipient of Atlantic University Sport’s Most Sportmanslike Player in women’s hockey.
Per Atlantic University Sport’s announcement, the award “recognizes an individual who maintains the standards of fair play and treats those around her with respect at all times.”
Richards, a chemistry student at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, served as captain for the Mount Allison Mounties in her fourth season with the team.
She produced three goals and 11 points this year. Across 27 regular season games, she accumulated just four total penalty minutes – a testament to her approach to the game.
For Richards, being a strong teammate and demonstrating respect for teammates and opponents alike took priority over individual stats.
“It’s not always about the number of goals or the number of wins in your win-loss column, it’s about being a team player and putting your team’s success over your individual success,” she told The Northern Pen. “It’s about treating your opponent with nothing but respect; even in the heat of the moment, sometimes when the game isn’t going your way, you still have to remember to have respect for your teammates and your opponents.”
Richards has played hockey for 16 years. She has now played her final game of competitive hockey, with Mount Allison’s season over and this being her final year at the school.
She felt the award was affirmation of the hard work she’s put into hockey over that time.
“I’m thankful and grateful for all the opportunities that hockey has given me,” she said. “When you have a passion for something like I do for hockey, the score doesn’t matter, you’re going to take the best out of the game and give it all you got because you love it.”
“I was always taught to have a positive attitude and my work ethic, my attitude and my respect in the game I think played a huge role in me receiving the award.”
Richards credited her parents, Curtis and Lisa, for the values they instilled in her.
“I could never thank them enough,” she said.
She also credited her “amazing” coaches, teammates and family members who supported her along the way.
“With my hockey career coming to a close, I definitely want to thank everybody for all the sacrifices and commitment and for just believing me every step of the way,” she said. “I’d tell any young boy or girl that with a lot of hard work and dedication they can achieve any dream they want.”