Former Flyers captains have advice for Richards

January, 18, 2010

So, Mike Richards and the Philadelphia media had another blowout Sunday.

The good news for the Flyers captain is that he has only 10 more years of this.

Richards, who is signed through the 2019-20 season, has been at odds with some members of the Philly media since the start of the season, much of it stemming from stories written about the players' off-ice partying and nightlife. I believe, however, that comments from Flyers GM Paul Holmgren regarding this subject last summer gave the local media credence to go after this angle.

Richards has objected to some of the coverage, and while I understand his frustration, I also think he needs to suck it up and move on. You have to be above this stuff; it's part of the deal when you wear the "C." You represent the team and the organization in good times and bad. There's no need for these petty fights with the beat writers.

I reached out Monday to three former Flyers captains, Bob Clarke, Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau, to get a sense of what it's like to be team captain in Philadelphia, long known as a tough sports town.

"Things were a lot different when I was captain," Clarke, now a senior vice president with the team, told "In those days, if you played poorly, it was pointed out, but there wasn't so much individual criticism and stuff like there is now."

Primeau loved being captain in Philadelphia.

"I personally felt that I was able to thrive under it," Primeau said. "I tried to wear my emotion and my heart on my sleeve."

The Big E? He did chuckle when asked whether he had "fun" as Flyers captain.

"Well, there were some interesting moments," Lindros said while driving back to Toronto on Monday. "But I'm moving forward; I'm not looking back."

But is it tougher to be captain in Philly than other NHL towns?

"You know, I don't know if it's any tougher than what Mats [Sundin] had to deal with in Toronto or what it's like to be captain in Montreal," Lindros said.

(As an aside, maybe Montreal and Toronto are onto something by not naming a captain this season. But I digress.)

Lindros, like Richards, was given the Flyers captaincy at an early age. Lindros was 21, Richards 23. It's a lot a pressure for a young man.

"He's young," said Clarke, who was 24 when he was named full-time Flyers captain. "He'll get through that real quickly. It won't bother Mike. His skin will get thicker, and he'll be fine."

One thing Primeau learned as a youngster was that battling the media was a losing proposition.

"I learned early in my career, through my time and difficulty in Detroit, that the power of the pen is mightier than the sword," Primeau said. "And no matter how much you want your case to be heard, your side of the story to be heard, it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes you have to live with what's being said and persevere. Ultimately, your character is going to come through and help in your defense."

My advice to Richards, from one Northern Ontario boy to another, would be to take the Philly writers out for lunch or dinner, have a few pops with them, and try to clear the air. You've got enough to worry about on the ice without needing this kind of stress off of it.

"And I don't think that's a bad solution," Primeau said. "I think I would be the same way, as well. If someone was questioning my character, I would want to know why he was taking such a strong position or the proof to support their position. There's not many things you can control, but your character is certainly one of them."

Clarke, though, had no problem with the way Richards pushed back with the writers Sunday.

"I thought he handled it great myself," Clarke said. "It's up to him and [GM] Paul Holmgren to figure out what's right or wrong. I like that, when the players fight back. I think it's good.

"But if you're going to let what's written bother you, then you have to use it as a way to unify your team. You can't let it affect the way you play except in a positive way."

Richards leads the team with 40 points (19-21) in 47 games, so he's done his job on the ice. In the end, Primeau believes, this will all be forgotten.

"My personal opinion is that this is really just a blip," he said. "He'll be the captain here for a long time, he'll be a great player for a long time, and people will remember him for a lot of things, but ultimately it won't be for this situation."

Clarke agreed.

"He's a top person, he's a great player, he's going to run into little things along the way," the former Flyers GM said. "But what the hell, he'll get through them. He's smart and he's got character."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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