Bottom line: Richards needs to laugh off the media or he'll find himself pulling a Dany Heatley and demanding a trade.
WASHINGTON – The on-again, off-again verbal war between Flyers’ captain Mike Richards and the beat writers covering the team erupted again Sunday afternoon after the Flyers’ 5-3 loss to the Capitals.
Richards was asked about comments he made concerning the Philadelphia media in a Jan. 25 cover story appearing in The Hockey News. In the story, he said:
“It’s Philadelphia – when you’re winning there are no problems in the world and you can pretty much do whatever you want,” Richards told the magazine. “When you start losing, rumors start flying and people seem to just make things up to take a negative spin on things.
“That’s happened so many times this year already. In the first part of the year, nothing was going on, but all of a sudden when we’re losing, the media starts throwing us under the bus and bringing up things from the past that aren’t true. We have a great start and nobody’s saying these things, but we go on a little bit of a skid and everybody’s all over us.
“You deal with things in your own way. But I love playing in Philadelphia and wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.”
When confronted with those words after Sunday’s loss, Richards got defensive during a testy, back-and-forth session with the media. After the interviews ended, he walked into another dressing area uttering, “Thanks guys, it’s been a pleasure, as always.”
Richards then soon re-emerged and launched into a heated argument with a newspaper reporter about a story written last season, then walked away again amid both parties tossing verbal darts.
This past October, Richards briefly stopped talking to the media because of stories written about Joffrey Lupul that Richards and Jeff Carter felt reflected badly on them.
Richards was asked Sunday what stories reporters had “made up.”
“Just the articles to begin with in the beginning of the year, things like that,” Richards said.
“The drinking articles and things like that,” he replied. “All the articles. Why didn’t I talk to you [guys] for a month?”
Asked what articles said he was “drinking,” Richards replied, “You’re allowed to write stuff in the paper anytime. You didn’t write an article earlier in the year that we’re out too much? You asked Lupes [for] answers and everything?”
Actually, general manager Paul Holmgren raised the issue of nightlife in a June article that appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times.
Holmgren was asked whether the players living in Center City Philadelphia – eight current Flyers, including Richards – were enjoying themselves too much off the ice.
“First of all, if you want to look for nightlife, action or whatever, you can find it whether you live in South Jersey, Delaware or Philadelphia,” Holmgren told the paper. “Am I concerned about it? Let me say this: The issue has been raised by [coach] John [Stevens] and myself with all the players.
“I think this all falls under the umbrella of discipline. It’s on-ice discipline – not overstaying-your-shift discipline – it’s off-ice discipline, it’s night before a game taking better care of ourselves.
“That’s a natural maturation process that a lot of our younger players are still going through. We’ve addressed that. So am I concerned about it? We’ll see how it goes this year. All our players have been talked to about it. Is it an issue? The fact that we’ve talked about it, I guess it is an issue.”
In the latest Hockey News, Holmgren back off on those earlier remarks.
“A lot of our guys now live in the city and go out to have dinner, so everybody assumes they’re out all the time through all hours of the night,” Holmgren told The Hockey News.
“I don’t think it’s ever been an issue on the team and our guys just laugh about it.
Unfortunately, the way it is now means you have to be careful. That’s the world we live in.”
Holmgren was not available for comment.
Back to Sunday in the dressing room …
Richards insisted there were stories from the fall saying, “The players are drinking too much, Richards and Carter were out all the time – isn’t that what the articles said?”
On Oct. 10, several writers questioned Lupul when Anaheim came into town about whether he was a victim of being part of the “Old City Gang” and whether it played a role in his being traded to Anaheim as part of the Chris Pronger deal.
CSNPhilly.com wrote, “… there was a fair amount of rumblings within the Flyers organization last season about the “Old City Gang” of Lupul, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell. The theory goes, it sometimes presented a night life distraction that may have taken away from their on-ice hockey. Many believe trading Lupul was a sign by management that no one should get too comfortable when a team underachieves like the Flyers did.”
Richards was angry at that story, and others, that appeared in the newspapers on Oct. 11, saying similar things. When the Flyers returned from a bonding trip to Florida, Richards stopped talking to the media for about a week.
Asked Sunday whether there’s still a problem between himself and the media, Richards thought for a second.
“Probably not, I haven’t even read the [Hockey News] article,” Richards said. “I don’t know if it was misquoted, what was said, so I can’t elaborate on that.”
Following up, Richards was asked whether his past differences with the media was something the magazine broached or whether he raised the issue himself.
“I think what happened – I’m not sure, it was a month and a half ago – I think in the texting it was, ‘what’s it like playing in Philadelphia.’ I said ‘the media was tough sometimes when we’re losing. It’s good when we’re winning.’ I can’t say exactly what I said.”
A reporter asked Richards whether he was being “treated unfairly” by the media this season.
“No,” Richards said emphatically, then softly, “No.”
Pronger, who admitted he had a bad reputation with the media earlier in his career, offered his own insight on Richards’ angst.
“You guys suck!” Pronger said, laughing. “You guys are nice to me. Do I think you’re unfair? I don’t read, so I don’t know what you really write, to be honest with you. I think you have to have a thick skin to play sports, in general.
“If you don’t play well, you’re going to be told you don’t play well. When you do, you’re going to get the tap on the back.”
He said if players get “too caught up” with what is reported, they fail to focus on their game and it affects them on the ice.
Asked if there were any personality conflicts among players in the dressing room, Pronger said, things are good under coach Peter Laviolette.
“We got off to a slow start when he got there and we were still in a tailspin, and not playing very well for one another and not playing very well as a team and since going on the road right there before Christmas, we kinda turned a corner, not only in the locker room, but on the ice.”
Pronger said when he played for St. Louis he was “a little aggressive” with the media.
“I played on the ice the way I treated them off the ice,” he said. “I think you learn. You have to go through that learning phase.
“You guys are here just trying to do a job. Sometimes, I might not like it. But I don’t come up and say, ‘Hey, great article when you pat me on the back, either.’
“I don’t think [Richards] is getting caught up in it. … As you get older and experience the highs and the lows, you understand what needs to be done. You guys, for the most part, I think, are trying to promote the game and the team.
“Yeah, there’s going to be some negative articles when you are not playing well. But for the most part, you’re trying to do a job and we’re trying to do a job and once you understand that and respect that, you’re gonna have a better relationship with the media.
“I didn’t always have the best one myself. And now look. You guys always want a quote.”