EL SEGUNDO — Still without an explanation for what prompted the Philadelphia Flyers to trade him to the Kings a month ago, and still wondering how allegations of excessive partying could leak from his former locker room, Mike Richards made his debut with the Los Angeles media Wednesday at the Toyota Sports Center.
Richards, a two-time 30-goal scorer who came to L.A. in a deal for rugged right wing Wayne Simmonds, highly touted center Brayden Schenn and a future draft pick, stayed around to answer every question tossed his way, from first impressions since joining the organization to his thoughts on the stunning trade and whether there was any truth to reports that his after hours might have fueled his departure.
Two days earlier, a gossip columnist with the Philadelphia Daily News cited unidentified sources who claimed Richards, the team captain, got on the wrong side of Flyers coach Peter Laviolette because he opted against participating in a month-long pledge of sobriety, an event known in the locker room as Dry Island.
It wasn’t the first time Richards came into the cross hairs of the Philadelphia media after they reported on the Flyers' exuberant nightlife. Two seasons ago, Richards refused to speak with local journalists after reports surfaced that Joffrey Lupul was traded to the Ducks for Chris Pronger to break up some of the off-the-ice behavior by a group of Flyers that included Richards.
Richards, 26, did not deny the latest reports, but rather questioned their importance.
“Philadelphia tends to blow things up a little more than they actually are,” he said. “[Dry Island] just started out as more of a friendly, fun thing that you can joke about in the dressing room.”
Richards said he was more displeased that the information came out from behind closed doors.
“It was something that was supposed to just be a team thing,” he said. “Usually what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room, and that’s the kind of bond that you need as a hockey team.”
Kings general manager coach Dean Lombardi agreed.
“I find it more telling that some player, or somebody in that room, talked about what went on,” Lombardi said. “That, to me, is the biggest issue.”
Richards said he’s looking forward to forming new bonds with his teammates. He began working out with Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis this week, taking part in a grueling run on the beach earlier Wednesday that left his legs feeling heavy and sore.
Lombardi was nearby to watch Richards work out on the sand, and he came away feeling even better about the biggest trade since becoming general manager of the Kings five years ago.
“To go out there and do what he did on the beach this morning, as a veteran player, I don’t know how many guys would do that,” Lombardi said. “That’s why you want a player who goes so much beyond what you see on the ice.”
After signing a 12-year contract extension in December 2007, Richards thought he was destined to be a Flyer for life. Three days after the trade, Richards said he took a walk on the beach his first night in Southern California and began feeling better about his new situation.
He has since taken a closer look at the team’s roster and is impressed with its depth, particularly at the forward and goalkeeping positions.
“When you have four good lines you can put on the ice, that sets you up for success,” he said.