Another Philly sports drama

A player who assumes a role of leadership for a sports team in Philadelphia is bound to bear the brunt of undue criticism.

This is particularly true for players who have great expectations thrust upon them. It happened with Charles Barkley. It happened to Eric Lindros. It happened in Randall Cunningham’s later years, just as it did for Donovan McNabb. It happened with Terrell Owens. It happened with Allen Iverson. It happened with Pat Burrell to some extent. It happens intermittently with Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels.

The Flyers are not immune to these perils either, despite a near-unbroken chain of endearment from the fan base.

With each shot that sails wide of the net, fans bemoan Jeff Carter and curse his name. Prior to becoming a playoff hero in Philadelphia, fans called for Danny Briere to be traded to any taker, regardless of the return. Want to know how much stress comes with donning the orange and black jersey? Just ask Lindros.

The most tenuous of all current Philadelphia sports relationships has to be Mike Richards and his battle with the city’s major print media.

Though his voice is not forceful, Richards speaks his mind and is not afraid to respond to any scrutiny that he believes is unjust, as shown in the quote from him below. He is also just as likely to close himself off and shy away from the microphones and bright lights when writers anger him. Yes, he reacts emotionally to being called “emotionally detached.”

Head coach Peter Laviolette said that he and Richards “continue to work on our relationship.” This lead to a media hailstorm focused on Richards, his leadership abilities, and presumed responsibility for an early exit from the 2011 playoffs. For the first time in weeks, the Flyers goalies did not have to worry about being the target of blame.

I’m going to let the quotes speak for themselves, with the admittance that these opinions are best prefaced by the following quote from Travis Hughes.

Travis Hughes:

Generally speaking, the media has not handled Mike Richards well in his time here. Mike Richards has not handled the media well, either. It goes both ways to be sure, but that doesn’t give the media a free ride to view Richards in a negative light solely because he might not like them.

Mike Richards:

Tim Panaccio thinks I’m moody and withdrawn with him. Maybe because he writes articles that are no where close to being true

Tim Panaccio:

Mike Richards is entitled to his opinion, as I am.

and:

On the ice, throughout much of the year, there appeared to be an emotional detachment by Richards from the game itself. He often seemed unhappy among reporters. One player said candidly Richards was the “most unhappy superstar” in Philadelphia.

Paul Holmgren:

First of all, I don’t think that has anything to do with Mike Richards’ injury. I think Mike Richards is a good captain for our team. I think he’s a tremendous player in our league, and trust me, there are 29 other teams that would love to have Mike Richards.

Daniel Briere:

I think Mike Richards is a great captain. He leads by example, how hard he plays, and the way he sacrifices his body.

There are not a lot of guys that do it as well as he (Richards) does around the NHL…

So honestly I think he (Richards) is the captain for this team. It is well deserved.

and:

If there is a communication issue between Richards and Laviolette he’s not aware of it. But if there is, it needs to be fixed.

Sam Carchidi:

Richards sometime seemed emotionally detached this season. He did not make himself available to the media on Monday or Tuesday. He said he will talk on Wednesday.

Scott Hartnell:

It’s very unfair. He’s the hardest worker. He’s got the biggest heart. People who are saying he doesn’t care or he didn’t give it his all out there doesn’t know what they’re talking about because he’s one of the most well-liked players I’ve ever played with.

Notice the discord between the quotes from some of the writers and those from the players and general manager. It’s hard to value the opinions of Carchidi and Panaccio over those of his teammates in this instance. However, fans have greater access to the words of reporters and are often willing to put their trust into the mainstream media than any other source.

While it is difficult to completely remove your bias from reports, it’s imperative to do so, especially when you are at the top of the food chain. Otherwise, these opinions can become self-fulfilling prophecies. There’s only so far you can push Richards before he actually becomes emotionally detached.

  • Bob H

    I think a central disconnect here is the lack of bona-fide hockey experts in the roles of Flyers beat writer for some major print outlets in the region. Due to economic concerns, and that hockey is 4th down on the list in this country, leads me to believe it’s basically whoever gets the short straw.

    That goes for the above along with Frank Seravalli, who has done little to dispel rumors of his youth leading to “fanboy” treatment of the team. You don’t get this crap from Anthony SanFilippo or from Chuck Gormley, or from the Morning Call or Trenton papers.

    I also think to a lesser extent, editors are to blame, pushing the writers to seize on any and all angles possible. The more dirt that can be gleaned and the more words that can be twisted, the better.

    Does the average NHL player have any idea about these machinations? Hell no. Most educated people don’t either. Most people use sports as an escape, a reason NOT to think, and that makes it easier for the average fan to simply believe what is written.

    That’s why I almost hit the roof, as a sports writer beyond this publication, when TP is quoted above that he’s entitled to his opinion.

    Maybe so, Tim, but you have a responsibility in print (not Twitter where it has become acceptable to vent) to curb your opinion so that it doesn’t obviously color your content. Maybe those lines have been blurred because he works for Comcast’s internet service and not the Inky, I don’t know.

    Chris Pronger seems to be the only one savvy enough, because he’s been around it so long, to treat the media as they deserve to be treated — to a person — when they’re on the mark or out of bounds.

    To muddle things a bit, I also don’t necessarily believe all the Flyers are on board with Richards or Laviolette. It appears that the Flyers themselves are smart enough in public comments to circle the wagons for Richie, but they sure as hell don’t want to catch Hell from the front office by calling out the coach.

    Richards’ inability to deal with the media beyond either random bursts of anger and sullen withdrawal speaks to his own lack of maturity. I believe he was given the captaincy too young, too soon in his career, and frankly, in a city which is the complete opposite of how his personality is revealed in front of the cameras.

    If he really is unhappy, give the captaincy to someone else. Bobby Clarke the player didn’t have an unbroken chain of leadership — Mel Bridgman then Bill Barber took the C from 1979-82 before Clarke got it back for his last 2 years.

    Steve Yzerman, also a young captain, had the benefit of slowly-rebuilding teams in Detroit in the 1980s to grow into his role. Richards doesn’t have this luxury with the crushing weight of expectations year after year.

    It really is funny, for anyone with a memory longer than 5 years, to see Panotch getting his claws into Richards, when 10 years ago, he had his claws in Clarkie for the way he handled Lindros.

  • Bob H

    I think a central disconnect here is the lack of bona-fide hockey experts in the roles of Flyers beat writer for some major print outlets in the region. Due to economic concerns, and that hockey is 4th down on the list in this country, leads me to believe it’s basically whoever gets the short straw.

    That goes for the above along with Frank Seravalli, who has done little to dispel rumors of his youth leading to “fanboy” treatment of the team. You don’t get this crap from Anthony SanFilippo or from Chuck Gormley, or from the Morning Call or Trenton papers.

    I also think to a lesser extent, editors are to blame, pushing the writers to seize on any and all angles possible. The more dirt that can be gleaned and the more words that can be twisted, the better.

    Does the average NHL player have any idea about these machinations? Hell no. Most educated people don’t either. Most people use sports as an escape, a reason NOT to think, and that makes it easier for the average fan to simply believe what is written.

    That’s why I almost hit the roof, as a sports writer beyond this publication, when TP is quoted above that he’s entitled to his opinion.

    Maybe so, Tim, but you have a responsibility in print (not Twitter where it has become acceptable to vent) to curb your opinion so that it doesn’t obviously color your content. Maybe those lines have been blurred because he works for Comcast’s internet service and not the Inky, I don’t know.

    Chris Pronger seems to be the only one savvy enough, because he’s been around it so long, to treat the media as they deserve to be treated — to a person — when they’re on the mark or out of bounds.

    To muddle things a bit, I also don’t necessarily believe all the Flyers are on board with Richards or Laviolette. It appears that the Flyers themselves are smart enough in public comments to circle the wagons for Richie, but they sure as hell don’t want to catch Hell from the front office by calling out the coach.

    Richards’ inability to deal with the media beyond either random bursts of anger and sullen withdrawal speaks to his own lack of maturity. I believe he was given the captaincy too young, too soon in his career, and frankly, in a city which is the complete opposite of how his personality is revealed in front of the cameras.

    If he really is unhappy, give the captaincy to someone else. Bobby Clarke the player didn’t have an unbroken chain of leadership — Mel Bridgman then Bill Barber took the C from 1979-82 before Clarke got it back for his last 2 years.

    Steve Yzerman, also a young captain, had the benefit of slowly-rebuilding teams in Detroit in the 1980s to grow into his role. Richards doesn’t have this luxury with the crushing weight of expectations year after year.

    It really is funny, for anyone with a memory longer than 5 years, to see Panotch getting his claws into Richards, when 10 years ago, he had his claws in Clarkie for the way he handled Lindros.