On Thursday, news broke that authorities were finally charging former Flyers captain Mike Richards with being in possession of a controlled substance while crossing the United States-Canadian border back in June. While this was the expected outcome, it's yet another turn of events in what has become an unfortunate fall from grace for the once rising star.
Despite his challenging dealings with the Manitoba RCMP, the Los Angeles Kings management and even the Philadelphia media, we should choose to remember Richards in Philadelphia in a positive light. After all, he did score 349 points in 453 games as a member of the Orange and Black.
As we continue to be surrounded with negativity in the news – both sports and non-sports related – let's look back at the good times and recap a few of Richards' brightest moments in the City of Brotherly Love.
In 2009-10, the Flyers barely managed to sneak into the postseason, winning a shootout against the New York Rangers in the season's 82nd game. After knocking off the New Jersey Devils in the first round, the Flyers completed the greatest comeback in team history by winning four straight game against the Boston Bruins after losing three straight to open the series.
Riding their high from a history-setting performance, the Flyers made quick work of the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final as they clinched their first Stanley Cup Final berth since 1996-97.
In Game 5 against Montreal at home, the Wells Fargo Center was jumping before the Habs took an early 1-0 lead and looked to further capitalize on the man-advantage. Having other plans in mind, Richards was all over the ice on the penalty kill and eventually tied the game with an amazing play to poke the puck away from a pinching Jaroslav Halak. The equalizer almost blew the roof off of the arena and the Flyers never looked back. "The Shift" was the turning point in the game and gave the club the energy needed to win the Eastern Conference.
After winning the Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004-05 – in which the NHL season was canceled due to a lockout – Richards cracked the Flyers lineup when play resumed the following year and immediately made his presence known by scoring in the opening game of the 2005-06 season.
The 20-year-old took a beautiful stretch pass at the blue line and cranked a snap shot into the back of the net while being pressured from the defense.
For Flyers fans who were excited to see so many of the Calder Cup Champs, including one of Richards' closest friends in Jeff Carter, in the Opening Night lineup, they were reminded just how talented Richards was when he picked up right where he left off.
With almost a dozen former captains in attendance – and Eric Lindros sending a personalized message – Richards was officially named the 17th captain in team history as he was presented the 'C' before the final game the Flyers would ever play in the Spectrum before the 2008-09 season. Ever since he was drafted, Richards was continually compared to Flyers legend Bobby Clarke. In fact, from the very beginning of his career, he was dubbed as the Flyers captain of the future.
Except for one really horrendous season, the Flyers played some great hockey during the Richards' captaincy and really reignited divisional rivalries, especially with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although the organization failed to win a Cup, they were exciting times with some really talented young players.
When the Flyers traded Richards to the Kings following the Stanley Cup loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, they did so with the notion that the return would hopefully aid them in moving the club forward. With players such as Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, that may eventually be the case.
Richards was a champion at every level, winning the Memorial Cup, the Calder Cup and the Stanley Cup. He won an Olympic gold medal. That's what the former Flyer captain should be remembered for.
Zach Hopkins is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @healedbyhockey.