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Carchidi Column: Mike Richards’ Happy Return to the Flyers

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Mike Richards poses with Paul Holmgren holding the Bobby Clarke Trophy. (Credit: Flyers PR)
Mike Richards and GM Paul Holmgren pose with the Bobby Clarke Trophy after the center was named the Flyers' MVP. Photo courtesy of Flyers.

Mike Richards, once the face of the Philadelphia Flyers, is in a good place these days. A happy place.

And after all he went through in his final days with the Los Angeles Kings in 2015, his return to good health — and having a good frame of mind — is perhaps the most noteworthy development surrounding the Flyers’ alumni game Friday at the Wells Fargo Center against Boston.

Richards, 38, seems at peace with himself. He has been married for three years, and he and his wife divide time between West Palm Beach, Fla., and Kenora, Ont.

“We spend about four months down here in the winter, and go back home in the summer,” Richards said from Florida on Wednesday night.

The bombshell dropped by then-Kings general manager Dean Lombardi in 2015 has faded.

“I have no issues with what people said about me in the past,” Richards said.

His life is in order.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Richards, who played  his final NHL season with Washington in 2015-16, spending 39 games with the Capitals. “Everything is good.”

Contract terminated

In the summer of 2015, the Kings terminated Richards’ contract after he was arrested at the Canadian border and later charged with possession of a controlled substance, Oxycodone. He was plagued by concussions during his NHL career, which started with six seasons in Philadelphia before a shocking trade to Los Angeles in 2011.

In the 2014-15 season, Richards, who was on Los Angeles’ Stanley Cup championship teams in 2012 and 2014, was sent to the minors because his play had deteriorated so badly.

Lombardi told the Los Angeles Times he had “heard the rumors that Mike might have some off-ice issues, but I refused to believe they were true despite some obvious signs. The reality is that I was ‘played.’ ”

In 2015, he called Richards’ situation a “tragedy” and said he was devastated that the players was caught in a “destructive spiral.”

The Kings and Richards reached an out-of-court settlement. Richards had five years and $22 million left on his contract.

Richards has gotten past those troubling times, he said. He has received some feelers from teams seeing if he was interested in getting back to the sport in some capacity, but he has declined.

Does he miss hockey at all?

“I wouldn’t say I miss it,,” he said. “I took a few years without watching much of it after I finished, I’m starting to get back into kind of watching. I don’t really miss playing except playoff time. That gets the blood boiling a little once you start watching playoff hockey. I get a little antsy during that time, but other than that, I don’t miss it too much.”

Special Flyers season

Richards, a center who played with a relentless style when healthy, won the two Cups with the Kings, and came close to winning it all with the Flyers in 2010. Philly lost to Chicago in six games in the Finals that season. In those playoffs, the Flyers fell into a three-games-to-none hole against Boston, then won four straight and seemed destined to win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.

“That playoff run was pretty special, pretty awesome,” he said. “Obviously it ended poorly but that was a great ride.”

Personally, Richards said if he had to rank his greatest hockey thrills, he would put them in this order:  winning the Cup in 2012, capturing gold for Canada in the 2010 Olympics, and the second Cup championship with L.A. in 2014.

While his L.A. teams had more success than the Flyers, Richards’ best individual seasons were in Philadelphia — by far.

Richards spent six seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, four with the Kings. In his last four seasons in Philly, he had 28, 30, 31 and 23 goals. His goals dipped dramatically in his four seasons in L.A.: 18, 12, 11, and five.

As for the alumni game, Richards is excited to be reunited with some of his former teammates like Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, Mike Knuble, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton, Patrick Sharp, Donald Brashear and Riley Cote.

PHN: Flyers Announce Alumni Game Roster; Tickets Available

“I haven’t seen a lot of guys I played with since I stopped playing,” Richards said. “So it’ll be good to be back.”

Former stars like Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Brian Propp and Mark Howe are also playing, along with Joe Watson, who is 80 years young — more than twice Richards’ age,

“I always thought it was pretty cool that Philly would always have golf tournaments and a lot of the alumni would be around a lot,” Richards said. “And there were always (former) players who worked for the Flyers. I thought that was pretty cool and really enjoyed talking to the different people, whether it was at the Flyers’ carnival or around the rink or wherever. I always thought that was awesome. One of the best parts about playing in Philadelphia was seeing those guys around on a daily basis.

“It was cool. Kind of like, once you’re a Flyer, you are sort of in that club, I guess.”

Mike Richards, a former All-Star with the Flyers, is part of that club.  A big part.

“I enjoyed my time there and wanted to stay there,” he said.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called Bullies: A Love Story. Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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