Josh Richards dreamed of making the NHL when he was a kid. That finally happened Wednesday, even if it wasn’t exactly the way he imagined.
The NHL announced before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens that the content creator will be a special adviser and “voice of the fans,” with the goal of growing the League’s youth audience.
“Being a kid that grew up his whole life playing hockey, and being from Toronto, idolizing guys like Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky and just watching the game, watching ‘SportsCentre’ every morning waking up, it’s just such a cool opportunity to be able to grow this sport for other young kids and I am stoked to do so,” Richards told NHL.com.
The 19-year-old was in attendance for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on Wednesday with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The two met at a Florida Panthers game in Sunrise, Florida, earlier this season, but Richards’ reputation preceded him because Commissioner Bettman’s granddaughter is among his 40 million followers on social media.
“The first time I met him, I told him my 12-year-old granddaughter was a huge fan,” Commissioner Bettman said. “He says, ‘Get her on the phone,’ and they FaceTimed for 10 minutes. He’s very cool. We’re thrilled that he’s so focused on us. His passion is clear. He’s a huge fan.”
Richards’ influence already was in play Wednesday with a pregame performance from 24kGoldn and iann dior, who he suggested as an act. The duo headlined a rooftop pool party and sang their hit, “Mood,” with Richards doing the introduction.
Richards also will have a sit-down conversation with Commissioner Bettman, asking him fan-submitted questions relating to the current and future of the game that will appear on the NHL’s YouTube channel Thursday.
“We brought him here for Game 2 and it’s like seeing a kid in a candy store,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said. “His enthusiasm and excitement for the game is contagious. We’re just getting started in our partnership, but watching him at the Stanley Cup Final, seeing his reaction, it’s exciting to think of all the possibilities of what we can do together.”
After years of introducing his friends from the United States to hockey, Richards is ready to level up in a big way. He has a few ideas about the ways he’d like to help grow the game, including a celebrity all-star game or ball hockey event for charity. But one of his big objectives is to raise the profiles of the players, several of whom he already interacts with. He has appeared on New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban‘s podcast, and also befriended Montreal Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki.
“That’s really how I see how this game could grow,” Richards said. “When you look at a lot of the other major sports, a lot of the guys are way bigger celebrities and front-facing in the League and that’s something that isn’t in hockey yet.”
From dreaming about playing in the NHL to getting into the hockey shirt business, Richards has long wanted to be involved in hockey in a meaningful way. Now he’s getting his chance.
“The whole goal here is for me to be able to help the Gen Z audience, the younger audience, really come and fall in love with the sport of hockey,” he said. “… It’s a sport that people just fall in love with.”
NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report