On Mike Richards, captaincy, and booing

With Claude Giroux being named the 19th Captain in Philadelphia Flyers history, it will naturally bring up some talk of Mike Richards. Some people fear naming Giroux Captain at age 25, after his fourth NHL season, after having named Mike Richards to the same post at age 23, after his fourth season.

I’m not here to debate the merits of those concerns, but rather, the discussions brought to memory something I wrote at another time and place. I wanted to bring it here to Flyers Faithful.

So, please forgive me for bringing up Mike Richards…again. We may never get away from it, but I’m fine with that.

Image c/o NHL.com

Image c/o NHL.com

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With the recent trade of Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Los Angeles Kings, it has reignited discussions here in Philadelphia about Mike Richards and Jeff Carter; and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I realize that Mike Richards is/was a polarizing topic in this city, but I truly can’t understand the animosity I see, hear, and read.

I’d first like to preface this by saying that my point has nothing at all to do with the trade of Mike Richards. I’m not intending to present reasons for why he should or shouldn’t have been traded. The fact of the matter is, he was traded, so there’s no sense in dwelling on why, or even the return. For what it’s worth, I think we got pretty good value in the trade.

Richards was recently quoted as, yet again, saying the Philadelphia media made up stories about him. That led to a number of people saying “I’m not going to comment on it”, but then proceed to comment on it. Both sides claim they’re over it, and it’s time to move on, yet they can’t help themselves.

On WIP last week, Angelo Cataldi (who really shouldn’t be discussing hockey anyway), was ripping Richards for pointing out the obvious difference between Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, Richards couldn’t go out without getting recognized everywhere he went. In LA, that doesn’t happen. It’s LA after all, and I’m sure hockey players aren’t at the top of the food chain. I ask, what is wrong with that statement? What about it warrants malice and hate? I simply can’t comprehend why it is so bad that Mike Richards is innately a quiet, borderline shy person. It’s just the way he is, and he’d probably rather blend in with the crowd.

Now, I do understand that Richards was the Captain, and therefore had responsibilities in dealing with the media; and as we all know it wasn’t exactly a glowing relationship. So if you want to critique Richards for that aspect of Captaincy, fine. However, I again question why that would warrant some of the hatred I’ve seen, read, and heard. If the media wants to dislike Richards for being a boring interview, having little to say, and frankly having no idea how to properly handle that relationship, that is fine. I just don’t get why the fans hate him for it too.

I think that the passion that Philadelphia is known for can be a double edged sword. In this case, fans are so quick to move on from a player that they essentially entirely recreate their image of that player; and forget why they ever loved them.

I was at the game earlier this season when Richards made his return to Philadelphia. I remember being very curious as to what his reception would be because I had seen so many different opinions on the matter. When he came out for warm ups, there was minor cheering and a small smattering of boos; nothing substantial either way. The same could be said when he came out before the National Anthem.

At the first stoppage the Flyers put a graphic on the scoreboard honoring Richards and he received a pretty decent standing ovation. I wouldn’t say as comparable as Simon Gagne’s was, but it was adequate. However, he was then booed every time he touched the puck for the remainder of the game.

Did I miss something? Is Mike Richards, Sidney Crosby? Or any of the number of other players that are truly rivals and/or hated? In my opinion, booing a player whenever they touch the puck is reserved for the worst of the worst. We do it to Crosby because, frankly, he destroys us. Montreal does it to Briere, because he spurned them. Edmonton does it to Pronger because he couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.

What did Mike Richards do aside from give 100% effort every night? Sure, he never won us a Cup, but neither did Simon Gagne, or Mark Recchi, and we never booed those guys upon returning. I, personally, have no doubt in my own mind, that Richards did everything in his power to win a Stanley Cup here in Philadelphia. He just couldn’t play goalie.

I recently heard a discussion in which people were debating whether Giroux should be named Captain. One fan argued that Giroux, although being the same age as Richards was at the time, would be different than Richards because he visibly works hard and the media couldn’t make up stories about his laziness. When was Mike Richards’ effort ever a question? I certainly don’t recall.Mike Richards was adored in this city. He was “the next Bobby Clarke”. He busted his butt 100% of the time.

Mike Richards probably has half of the talent of someone like Claude Giroux, or to an even greater extent, Jeff Carter. He is in the NHL because of his effort, and his effort alone. He gets more out of his skillset than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s not big, he’s not fast, he doesn’t shoot particularly hard. He probably overrated his own skill which led to so many forced turnovers that it probably made you as crazy as it did me. The guy has two elite skills: instincts and effort.

If you want to question whether he was the right fit to lead this team, go ahead. If you had big issues with his being a 20-something that frequented bars, go ahead. If you had issues with him being an intrinsically quiet person, and not liking attention, go ahead. It is something that a Captain has to deal with; but he should be praised for his time here.

I’m not saying you have to root for him now that he’s a King; I’m just saying don’t conveniently change your opinion of the man because he’s no longer a Flyer. Don’t forget the things he did do here. Don’t forget how he gave everything he ever had on the ice. Don’t forget effort like this.

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I’m looking forward to the Giroux reign as Captain. I just hope that, no matter what happens under his watch, we don’t forget why we like him so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.mercado Nicholas Mercado

    God, that still gives me goosebumps

    • http://www.flyersfaithful.com/ Kevin Christmann

      Yea, I was at that game, and it was just….so awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/dayrecka J.L.

    He gave 100% every night? I am waving the bullshit flag… what about the series with Boston? Him and marshmallow Carter practically gave up.

    • Geoffrey Detweiler

      You mean the series where Richards dove face first to block a Bruin shooting at his empty net in Game 4 of a four game sweep? Yeah, he gave up.

  • Matt Cortese

    I’m in the same camp of wondering who can hate Richards. As a fan I don’t care one bit how much partying he does, because he always worked his ass of every game, every shift. Definitely a 100% effort guy. His only “problem” was he doesn’t score as much as other team’s #1 centers and captains. That’s only a problem for the casual fan though, I think.

  • jimmyo

    Message to Claude Giroux – Watch your back — there are vultures in Philly

  • http://twitter.com/EliseMichelle Elise Lotz

    *Standing ovation from behind my office desk*

  • http://twitter.com/KQuinter K.Q.

    Bravo. Tired of reading articles that do nothing but bash a heart and soul player like Richards.

  • http://www.flyersfaithful.com/ Kevin Christmann

    Thank you everyone!