While playing midget hockey, young Stephane Richer was a smallish kid who had serious doubts about his ability to progress much farther through the ranks of hockey. He was seriously considering calling it quits when he was offered encouraging words and an invitation from a local police officer and coach to join his club. The man's name was Pat Burns, the future bench boss of the Montreal Canadiens. Richer believed Burns' assessment of his potential and stuck to his path in hockey.
He eventually found his way to the Granby Bisons of the QMJHL in 1983. In his only full season of Major Junior A, he was voted the league's rookie of the year. The following season was a whirlwind tour as he hopped his way from Granby to the Canadian National Junior club to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, to the Montreal Canadiens and finally to the Sherbrooke Canadiens where he ended the year.
In 1985-86, Richer became a regular with the Habs where he was reasonably prolific on offense. But he'd yet to show any concrete signs of being all-star material although he did play a useful role in the Canadiens' Stanley Cup victory that year.
In 1987-88, however, all of his offensive tools came together. His excellent skating ability, his refusal to be intimidated, his size and strength and his cannon-like shot with the lightning quick release were all harmonized under one helmet. By season's end, he became the first Canadiens 50-goal scorer since Guy Lafleur's heyday.
But although Richer had given fans a taste of that familiar glory from the past, he often found himself embroiled in controversy and under criticism for not being committed to play his best every night. He was rumoured to be feuding with coach Pat Burns. He was frequently beset by injuries. In sum, as often as Richer could excite and satisfy fans, he could also disappoint them with off-ice distractions.
But through it all, the success was undeniable. He performed valiantly as the Canadiens' lost to Calgary in the Stanley Cup finals of 1989. Then, the following year he put together another 50-goal campaign. In 1991, the Canadiens decided to go with Kirk Muller, using Richer as collateral to be sent to the Devils. In New Jersey, Richer continued to be a solid offensive performer over the five seasons that followed.
In 1995, he again made his return to the winner's circle as the Devils won their first-ever Stanley Cup. After one additional campaign, he was traded back to Montreal for a season and a half before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lighting in 1998.
In Florida, Richer's numbers fell into a decline as he assumed a new role as the aging veteran leader. Midway through the 1999-2000 campaign, he was dispatched to the Detroit Vipers of the IHL and then scooped up by the St. Louis Blues where he remained until the end of the season. Richer then retired from hockey but then staged a comeback. He joined the Pittsburgh Penguins for the start of the 2001-2002 season and ended that year with the New Jersey Devils.
After 10 games with the New Jersey Devils, Stephane Richer officially announced his retirement on August 18, 2002.