You'll be hearing all about this tomorrow, but tonight Richards had a bit of a blow up with the local writers following a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals in D.C.
The crux of the disagreement was surrounding some quotes by Richards in the Jan. 25 edition of the Hockey News in which he is quoted as saying the Philadelphia Media makes things up when times are bad.
The exchange grew heated, so much so that at one point, coach Peter Laviolette had to get between Richards and one reporter (not yours truly) to prevent things from really going awry.
Before I express my opinion on the subject, I'm going to provide a transcription of the interview for all to read so you can begin to formulate your own opinions on the subject.
(NOTE: Two questions concerning the game were asked prior to these questions and have been omitted from this transcription for lack of relevance to the topic).
INQUIRER: A story was published this weekend where you say the Philadelphia media makes stuff up. Can you address that?
RICHARDS: The articles to begin with at the beginning of the year. Things like that.
INQUIRER: Such as?
RICHARDS: The drinking articles and things like that.
INQUIRER: The drinking articles?
RICHARDS: The articles… that’s why I didn’t talk to you for a month.
INQUIRER: I did an article that said that you drank?
INQUIRER: I have no idea what you are talking about. Elaborate please?
RICHARDS: Are you allowed to write something in the paper at any time that I say we didn’t…
INQUIRER: (interrupting) I didn’t.
RICHARDS: You didn’t write an article at the beginning of the year?
INQUIRER: That said you were drinking?
RICHARDS: That we’re out too much and that you asked Lupes (Joffrey Lupul, now with Anaheim) all the questions and everything? Anthony? Weren’t there articles?
DELCO TIMES: There were articles about those events but nothing naming you specifically.
RICHARDS: They said the players were drinking too much. Richards and Carter were out all the time.
INQUIRER: He (Lupul) said that?
RICHARDS: Isn’t that what the article said?
INQUIRER: No. I think that you’re making that up.
RICHARDS: Oh, O.K.
INQUIRER: You’re making it up.
CSNPHILLY.COM: The follow up to that is, do you think there’s a problem between us and you?
RICHARDS: Um.. Probably not. I haven’t even read the (Hockey News) article. I don’t know if I was misquoted or what was said. So, I can’t elaborate on that.
DELCO TIMES: I guess the question that might clear this up is, is this something that was brought up to you by the (Hockey News) writer, or was this something you brought back up again yourself?
RICHARDS: No. I’m not sure in this instance because it was a month-and-a-half ago. But, in the texting it was like, ‘What’s it like playing in Philadelphia?’ I said, ‘The media’s tough sometimes when we’re losing, it’s good what we’re winning.’ I can’t say exactly what I said but…
INQUIRER: (interrupting) You did say in the next sentence that ‘they make stuff up.’
RICHARDS: Oh, O.K.
COURIER POST OF NJ: Do you think you’re treated unfairly by us this season?
RICHARDS: No... Thanks guys. It was a pleasure, as usual.
Following this exchange Richards approached some writers privately to talk further. He was definitely upset. Soon, one of the writers started jawing with him and the two were face-to-face for a second before coach Peter Laviolette stepped between the two and separated them before it escalated any further.
Here's the thing. Is Richards a little too sensitive? Yes. Does he have to stop worrying so much about what is written about him? Yes. Does he need to embrace his captaincy a bit more and use it as a soap box of sorts. Yes.
Yet, I feel for the guy. I really do.
Here's the thing. Put yourself in his shoes. He's a 24-year-old single guy. He's also a handsomely-paid professional athlete. Now ask yourself, if you were him, wouldn't you be enjoying the good life a little bit too? I know I sure would.
Also, imagine you were a professional athlete. Imagine if every day people were writing things about you. Wouldn't you at least be interested in their opinions? Wouldn't you kind of use that as a guideline for the way you carry yourself in front of them? I know I would.
In the same magazine piece, Chris Pronger says this about being a young leader and dealing with the media:
"There's always a learning curve, but it's not always the way you think it's going to be an it's definitely not always going to be the easy way," he said. "The media turned on me pretty quick and I think that's why I had the reputation I had for the first seven, eight, nine years as not media-friendly. They weren't overly nice to me, so I thought, 'I'm not going to help them do their job if they're not nice to me.'
"Learning that lesson comes with the learning curve and maturity. You're going to have situations where things don't always go well and you have to learn how to deal with the bad times just as you have to learn to deal with the good.
"Mike is still a very young player and nobody's going to be perfect all the time. He's a pretty quiet guy who wants to lead by example and let his play be his voice,let his play be the tool that gets guys to buy in to what we're trying to do here. As a young leader with a lot of young players around, sometimes that's difficult.
"Guys are going to make mistakes, whether it's maturity issues, or game experiences. There are all sorts of things you encounter as a 24-year-old and you're going to look back years later and say 'Ahhh' - much like I did. I had to go through the exact same experiences as a young captain with a lot of pressure like Mike.
I can tell all these guys what's going to happen until I'm blue in the face, but they've got to go live it and make their own mistakes. They may heed some advice and not make some of the glaring mistakes I made, but they still have to live their lives and learn from their experiences."
That's a mouthful.
But he's right. Richards has some things to learn, and to be fair to Richards, there has been obvious growth. He still has room to grow, but again, it'll take time.
Where I side with him is that maybe we came on a bit too thick as writers today.
Maybe we made too much of this story in the Hockey News, which, in my opinion, went way overboard in it's description of the stories we all wrote about the Flyers young core of players (there were references to condom machines and Quagmire from the Family Guy).
But, criticism of the approach of the Hockey News story, which was certainly a few months too late on the subject, the post game story became a story only because we put ourselves into the story.
We could have spoken to Mike specifically about the game and let well enough alone. Or, we could have broached the subject a little differently, without ambushing him as we did. Some of the questions, to me, also seemed to be an attempt to goad Richards.
That's not fair. So, to see Richards lose his cool afterward, I can't say it wasn't completely justified.
Does there need to be better understanding between captain and media? Yes. But, was Richards a bit uptight and not answering with the right words, forcing the questioners to poke and prod him on the semantics of his answers without letting him express it properly? I think so too.
Hopefully there can be some resolution here, but at the same time, if Richards decides to not talk to us for awhile again, I can't say I don't understand.