Last updated: March 17. 2013 3:02AM - 479 Views
By - tvenesky@timesleader.com

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The handful of Wikes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who have played in outdoor games during their careers aren't the only ones who know what it's like to play a game in the elements.

One of the team's hockey operations staff has skated on the outdoor ice as well.

Assistant equipment manager Josh Richards, 23, played in two games for the Federal Hockey League's New York Bluefins this season. He is one of several local players to play in the FHL this year.

While his job with the Penguins keeps Richards busy throughout the hockey season, the Wilkes-Barre resident did find time to skate with the Bluefins during two games they played in Williamsport.

For someone who has been behind the bench for more than 500 Penguin games, the chance to play as pro was appealing to Richards.

It was a great experience and something I hope to do more of next season, Richards said. I've watched pro players in the AHL for years, and to be able to use what I've seen from them in the role of a player was exciting and helped me prepare for my first pro game.

Playing outside for the first time only added to Richards' experience on the pro ice.

His first game was on Dec. 21 – a 9-1 loss. Despite the result, Richards said the game had all the elements he was expecting of an outdoor hockey game.

It was under the lights and snowing, which made little bumps all over the ice as the snow froze, he said. The first thing I noticed, though, was how cold it felt when I walked out of the locker room onto the rink. It's a sharper, fresher air than what is in an indoor rink. It was really what you hope for with an outdoor game.

Richards, who played high school hockey for the Wilkes-Barre Wolfpack, suited up as a defenseman for the Bluefins and quickly found his role, dropping the gloves in each game.

Just like playing a pro game outside was a different experience, so was fighting on the ice, he said.

It's really different to fight with skates on. I watched videos of the players I knew I would potentially get into a fight with to be prepared, Richards said.

One of his fights was against Williamsport forward Tyler Matheson, who racked up 50 fighting majors in other leagues before joining the FHL.

That bout caught the attention of a former Penguin, who called Richards after the fight.

Aaron Boogaard called and told me he fought Matheson three times last season in the Central Hockey League. That made me feel good knowing I went with him after he fought someone as tough as Boogaard, Richards said.

While his work schedule limited Richards to two games this season, he isn't ruling out playing pro again in the future.

It was a cool experience and I'd be interested in playing more games as long as my work schedule allows, Richards said. I admit I was nervous before my first pro game, but once I got that out of the way I knew what to expect going into my next game.

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