There are some players that are just irreplaceable. The style and impact of their play are so grand that that they actually fly under the radar because their greatness is that understated. Greatness is a part of their inner fiber. Intangibles that every great leader of every great team has. Mike Richards has done nothing but win throughout his entire hockey career. He continues to captain that attitude on the NHL level with the Flyers leading them to the Stanley Cup Finals a season ago. Mike Richards is quietly one of the most underrated players in all of hockey and one of the best all-around hockey players that Philadelphia has ever seen. Richards lands at #4 in our Best Athlete in Philly countdown.
Richards may not necessarily be the team leader in any single category but he does it all. He is a big time player who makes big time plays in the big games. He wears the “C” with pride and deserves every ounce of that honor. Richards is an elite two-way center and a born leader. He isn’t going to be your William Wallace, lose your lungs leader, he commands with a quiet leadership. He will never be the captain that calls a teammate out in front of the squad. He is a protector, a dignified general. At only 26 he leads exceptionally well, and plays the game smart. The respect factor comes from what he does out there on the ice, not from what he says.
“I think Mike is one of those guys that, the bigger the game or the situation, the bigger he responds,” Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “The biggest thing about what we do here is that we’re unwavering in our approach to each game. And I think that stems from our leadership and from Mike.”
Since his rookie season in 2005-06 Richards has been a Flyers staple and a phan favorite. With a humble and determined mind-set he has already garnered so much success on the professional level. He possesses outstanding leadership qualities that cannot be taught. As captain he quietly commands the respect of the team and denotes a championship level of play to everyone that puts on that crest of honor. A unit without its leader cannot function.
Richie, as he is resepctably known, was born in Canada where hockey is spoon fed to you as a toddler. Instead of a slap on the butt when he was born Richie got a hockey stick and was pushed onto the ice to begin his illustrious career. At only 26-years old Richards has already established himself as an elite player. Lucky for us he will represent the Orange and Black for years to come.
It was in his hometown of Kenora, Ontario where his hockey career was birthed. He led the Kitchener Rangers, of the Ontario Hockey League, in scoring with 87 points during their dominant Memorial Cup run in 2003. His career with the Flyers began when Philadelphia selected Richie 24th in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Upon being assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2005 Richards was a key part of their Calder Cup Championship.
When I say that greatness is a part of Richie’s inner fiber, well being a champion comes right along with that. Again in 2005, as the captain of Team Canada in the World Juniors Championship, Richards led Canada to the gold. He has represented his country quite well on the ice also winning gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics with Team Canada in Vancouver.
Richie has emerged as a Flyers star since his breakout year in 2007-08 when he led the team in scoring. He was named an alternate captain and signed a lucrative 12-year deal with the team keeping him in Philadelphia for a long, long time.
Richards was selected to his first All-Star game in 2007-08 and scored his first playoff goal that season. The Flyers eventually fell to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals but Richie had supplanted himself as a Flyers cornerstone. A memorable run for an average team that was due in large part to the play of Mike Richards. In 2007-2008 he set career highs in goals, assists, and points.
Before the start of the 2008-09 season Richards was named captain, the third-youngest captain in Flyers history. A title that comes with such prestige in an organization steeped in history. An identity that immediately takes you back to the Broad Street Bullies and the iconic Bobby Clarke. But Richie is of his own breed, with his own way of leading a team.
Richie is a dangerous two-way player who can kill penalties exceptionally well and also play the point on the power play. He is a fiery player who wears himself down with his style of play but you cannot knock his hustle. During the regular season of 2009-10 Richards led the Flyers in points, power-play goals, and power-play points. The second time in the last three years he led the team in scoring. In the conference quarterfinals Richie led the team in assists and points as the Flyers made quick work of the Devils in five. He went on to finish second on the team in points during their historic Eastern Conference Finals comeback, with 3 goals and 6 assists. A quietly dangerous captain who is fully capable of carrying the weight that comes with that type of duty.
“If I’m not blocking shots, I can’t ask other players to go block shots,” Richards said. If I’m not giving my best effort, I can’t ask anyone else to do the same.”
Just the kind of mentality that it takes to be a leader and a champion. He is the captain of a Flyers team with the second most points in all of hockey. Poised at a return to the Finals loaded with a team of talent, ready to take Lord Stanley’s Cup home to Philadelphia where it belongs. He currently is third on the team in total points with 62. But what he means to this Flyers team cannot be measured on the stat sheet. Although modest he has left a lasting impact on the game of hockey in Philadelphia and will continue to guide this championship team with powerful poise.