In Defense of #18

From the first day that Mike Richards pulled on the sweater emblazoned with the “C,” a target was on his back. He’s one of the select few athletes in Philadelphia who will never, no matter what he does, get the credit he deserves.The man could hoist a Stanley Cup over his head - which he almost did last season - and people would still give him grief.

This is a man who deals with pressure unlike any most of us have or will ever know. He gets flack when he struggles. He’s the scapegoat when the team as a unit isn’t playing well. As a captain, that’s to be expected. But at a certain point, it’s a little much.

Today, on Twitter, Richards tweeted “Tim Panaccio thinks I'm moody and withdrawn with him. Maybe because he writes articles that are no where close to being true.” This was in reference to numerous quotes and reports from CSN Philly’s Panaccio that Richards is rude toward the media, simply because he doesn’t like to be in front of the cameras and tends to give short answers.

Imagine the pressure a person must feel, being under the spotlight as the face of a team. Richards is not a flashy person, on or off the ice. He is a quiet leader, and that apparently makes him unworthy of being captain. Does it say anywhere that a team captain has to be vocal? Chase Utley is considered to be one of the leaders of the Philadelphia Phillies, and it’s difficult getting a few words out of him. Does that make him a bad leader? His teammates, just like Richards’, will defend his leadership until their last breaths.

Richards had every right to say what he did. He comes under enormous fire and scrutiny, and he is allowed to speak up for and defend himself. Was it the right thing to do, saying it on Twitter? For the most part, Flyers fans have been supporting Richards, replying to him with words of support and gratitude for the way he plays. However, he may face some backlash from the media. Knowing Richards and his relationship with the media, if his tweet is brought up to him, he’ll either give a short response to brush the subject off (or not give any response at all), someone may make a story out of that, and the vicious circle will start all over again.

Leadership is much more than being friendly toward the media. It’s more than saying the right things. It’s about having heart, and doing everything one can to ensure that his team succeeds. It’s about carrying a team on his back when he’s barely able to hold himself up. It’s about accepting the scrutiny, even when it isn’t deserved.

Fans and members of the media alike are able to form their own opinions of players judging from what they see. Of course, media members may have somewhat better insight since they have more access, but only the members of the Flyers team and organization truly know what kind of a leader they have in Richards.

While it often gets lost in the midst of his issues with the media and the team’s struggles, Richards’ style of leadership cannot be ignored. It may not be flashy, and it may not be up to everyone’s standards, but his heart, determination, strength and everything else he brings to the team are not things that can be easily replicated or replaced.


Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

The problem is, Richards is now compared to the likes of Crosby and Toews, young captains that have won the cup. These two are always talking to the media, they are reporter "friendly", and they have had a good repor with the media their entire career. Mike Richards has not, part of the blame goes to philly media who absolutely blasts their players, and to be frank, he never will. Captains that are calm and quiet are veteran captains who have earned the respect to basically say the bare minimum and get away with that. Mike Richards has to deal with the media no more than Crosby, Ovechkin, and Toews and with the modern state of the NHL and the mass media that is following, Richards better get used to being questioned after every single game and about every single bad play. Its part of wearing the C. Nice article though.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I always think the questions that swirl around who wears a letter on his jersey are rediculous. It's insane that people question a man's leadership when they have no interaction with him. I once heard some one say they wanted Richards gone because he wasn't a leader and didn't display the character to wear the C. When asked who he felt would make a better captain on the Flyers the guy responded, "oh...I don't know...I'd have to be in the locker room."

None of us, whether we have a microphone or not will know what Mike Richards does to lead this team. But I'll tell you this much, no body was questioning his leadership when he scrambled and fought to score the first goal of Game 5 last year against the Canadiens (sorry bossman)

Im so sick of people bashing the captain

George Prax's picture

I completely disagree. Richards IS rude to the media and he always whines and starts a fuss for no reason other than he's pissed off about how he played or about the refs or whatever, and it's no excuse. Maybe Panaccio shouldn't have said what he did but in the end it's true, more often than not you see Richards storming out of a scrum or whining or confronting a reporter almost to the degree a Torts or a Boudreau would do as a coach. Only he doesn't do it because he wants to take attention away from his teammates, but because he's genuinly a sourpuss.

Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. Jonathan Toews in Chicago. Brian Gionta (preceeded by Saku Koivu) in Montreal. Dion Phaneuf in Toronto. Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa. Jarome Iginla in Calgary. Hell, throw in Chara and Ovechkin. These are all captains in major markets that often face major scrutiny from the media on a national stage. Three of those are Canadian teams that missed the playoffs. In my opinion there's no one in the league that faces more scrutiny than Iginla right now, ousting the champion for the last decade in Saku Koivu, who had his hospital room broken into once after eye surgery snapping photos of his injured eye with flash and asking questions about why he doesn't speak french to the media.

You wanna talk about scrutiny? Richards doesn't know the meaning. Like I said he's a sourpuss who needs to work on his temper, and who maybe needs to make a few calls to the Iginlas, the Koivus, the Phaneufs, who you NEVER see bitching about the media, and ask them how he needs to deal with them.

Richards is a great, underrated player, and clearly a good captain to his teammates. But bitching about the media, I will never tolerate that from a player like him, because clearly he doesn't have a clue. Suck it up and deal with it. So long as he, his teammates, his bosses and to a lesser degree the fans know what kind of a player and captain he is, whatever Panaccio or Eklund or Trible or who ever write about him is irrelevant.

Maybe Richards needs a crash course from the guy who almost took the captaincy from him last year about dealing with the media...

Kim Pollock's picture

I do agree with you, George, that Richards' attitude could use an adjustment. I can imagine that, as a member of the media, it's frustrating when you can barely get a word out of a guy who is the face of the organization. However, in Richards' case, he has a long-standing issue with the media, and I don't know that we can blame him for it. A certain Philly sports journalist wrote an article a few years back that Richards didn't take too kindly to. When Richards said something to him about it in an interview, the guy blatantly lied and said he didn't write it. Does this mean that Richards should have this bad attitude toward all media members? No. I agree with you on that.

Myself, personally, I was moreso trying to defend Richards as a captain in this piece. He is dealing with so much scrutiny, a lot of which is coming from the media, including guys who have supported him even when no one else really did, and are now changing their tune. When fans don't have the access to athletes and teams like media members do, those journalists are sometimes the only link between the team and the fan. When things are written that are embellished or just plain false, some people don't know the difference, and some guys can get a bad rep. I don't know. I think he just gets way too much shit - while I agree that he deserves some criticism, I think he gets more than he should thrown at him - and especially lately. And, like I said on Twitter, I just couldn't keep my mouth shut on it anymore.

Sidenote -- did someone seriously break into Koivu's hospital room? That is... all sorts of ridiculous and insane.

George Prax's picture

It's only one of many issues during Koivu's captaincy lol. That's why I brought it up. A guy like Koivu's gone through a lot worse in Montreal. Iginla has to face rumors of getting traded and rebuilds and how he's bringing the team down etc, and the media's pretty bad in places like Ottawa two. But these guys don't go on twitter and lambaste media members because they don't like what they say. They turn the other cheek and continue proving that they're capable captains by their play on the ice and what they do in the room. To me, THAT'S good leadership and qualities of a good leader.

Yes, it's not easy being Mike Richards, but unfortunately for him, it's part of the job. The media goes to games and asks their questions because paying fans want to hear what the players have to say. It's part of the job and Richards just has to suck it up and deal with it, otherwise he just comes off as a whiner, just as bad as Panaccio or whoever else. To me, this is exactly like #DanEllisProblems. So Panaccio said he was touchy with the media. So what?