© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Former Prince Albert Raider defenceman Richard Pilon was back at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday taking in his son's game between the Prince Albert Mintos and Saskatoon Contacts. Pilon, who played 631 games in the NHL and has been retired for a decade, is anxious to get back into the game as a coach.
Richard Pilon is at a crossroads in his life, but he clearly knows what he wants next.
The former Prince Albert Raider and long-time NHL defenceman with the New York Islanders was back in a familiar haunt on Thursday when he took in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League game between the Prince Albert Mintos and Saskatoon Contacts at the Art Hauser Centre.
While watching his son Garrett’s Contacts drop a 1-0 decision in overtime, he took time to talk about the past and how he is looking forward to the future.
“I want to coach,” says Pilon simply. “I want to go as high as I can. I think I’m a good coach.”
Since retiring from the NHL 10 years ago Pilon has spent a lot of his time watching his kids grow. He has helped Garrett develop as a hockey player and his daughter has taken up riding horses, another passion of the product of St. Louis.
Now that his kids are at an age in their life where they are more independent, Pilon is anxious to start the next phase of his career.
“I was always told make sure you get to watch your kids grow up because you can never get that time back,” says Pilon. “I don’t want this to sound bad, but I would love to be coaching. Maybe in the next year I’ll be ready. I haven’t found anything else more that I love to do.”
That wasn’t always the case.
After spending two seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders from 1986-88, Pilon, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Islanders in 1986, exploded on the NHL scene in 1988 and would play 631 games with the Islanders, New York Rangers and finally the St. Louis Blues.
Pilon scored eight goals and added 69 assists in his career, but he gained a reputation as a rough customer as evidenced by the 1745 minutes in penalties he accumulated.
What people didn’t know, however, was he also developed a problem with alcohol.
“I don’t know when it happened, but it happened,” says Pilon matter-of-factly. “I did a lot of bad things and I fell in love with the bottle.”
“I was somewhat of a fake,” added Pilon. “When I look back I did it (playing hockey) well, but I didn’t do it well all the time. I wasn’t all in.”
Pilon says that is why his brief association as an assistant coach with the Saskatoon Blades several years ago never worked out either.
“When he (Blades coach at the time Lorne Molleken) asked me to be his main guy, I wasn’t dependable,” explains Pilon.
Now in his 10th year of being sober, Pilon occupies his time by working for Cameco as a motivational speaker with the Dreams and Believers project, he spends time operating equipment with Cross Mount Developments, a group that is working a piece of land he sold to create a complex for retired people and he is back into owning horses as a group just bought three animals this week and will get them on the circuit in Saskatoon this summer. He also teaches hockey skills to underprivileged youth.
As for playing the game, Pilon is quite candid in saying he doesn’t miss it, but he knows he wants to get back into it – sooner than later.
“I don’t miss the grind,” says Pilon. “Everybody thinks it’s a rosy ride, but it’s not. There is a bit of a price to pay.”
Pilon credits his family for helping him pull through his battle and he knows they are supportive in whatever happens in the future.
“I’m fortunate my wife stayed with me through everything and I’m fortunate to have healthy kids,” says Pilon. “When she said ‘I do’ she meant it.”
“I can’t complain,” adds Pilon. “When I look at my life today, I’m happy.”
Time will tell what is next and while Pilon notes he has former teammates like Marc Bergevin (Montreal Canadiens general manager) and Bryan McCabe (Florida Panthers manager of player development) that he remains close with he realizes his coaching aspirations could take him anywhere.
Having won the biggest battle of his life, Pilon certainly stands to be successful in whatever comes next.