Summer without Stanley felt the same as any other for Mike Richards
"I have done it the last six years, so I'm used to it now, unfortunately," the Flyers' captain told NHL.com.
But never before did Richards get so close, so wonderfully close that he could actually play a game with the Stanley Cup in the building as he did on June 9, 2010.
It was Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the night the Cinderella slippers finally slid off the Flyers' skates.
Instead of forcing a Game 7 back in Chicago, Richards and the Flyers gave up their home ice so the Blackhawks could start their three-month party seconds after everyone in the building realized what Patrick Kane
already knew -- that his shot from down low on the left side did in fact beat Michael Leighton
to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 overtime victory.
"There are a lot of memories from their building," Kane told NHL.com on Thursday.
The teams will cross paths on Sunday in Chicago for the first time since Kane's shot somehow found a way to end the Hawks' 49-year Cup drought. It's not surprisingly the NHL on NBC Game of the Week.
Richards insists he hasn't allowed himself to "dwell on what I can't change," but he's not naive enough to think the memories of the Stanley Cup Final won't come rushing back when he gets on the ice and looks across the red line.
The goals they didn't score, the games they didn't win, the shot they couldn't stop -- it'll all be in his mind whether he likes it or not.
"Obviously you think about how close the games were and a bounce here or there, a post here or there could have went the other way," Richards said. "It didn't and that's disappointing. I'm sure there will be memories there, of disappointment. But, that's hockey, that's sports."
That was also then, and this is now. The Flyers have been one of the best teams in the NHL all season. They've used last season's surprising and historic run to the Stanley Cup Final as a jumping off point for what could be an even better finish in 2011.
Regrets? Sure, they have a few, but none that are worth worrying about 7 1/2 months later.
"You can't do that. You can't have any regrets," defenseman Matt Carle
told NHL.com. "That was our whole philosophy since (Peter) Laviolette came in and became our head coach. He wanted to make sure we didn't have any regrets, whether that's getting in the playoffs or playing in the playoffs. It's tough to look back and see some opportunities that maybe we could have scored on, but that's part of hockey and we have to credit that team. They played very well and were deserving of that win."
Carle can easily say that now. He wasn't talking that way this summer when he ran into Dustin Byfuglien
"It was hard to watch," Carle said. "He was obviously having a great time with it, and you know they're going to be doing that. That's what you strive for, and we'll try to use that as motivation to get back there this year."
Is it wrong to think that no matter what the Flyers say or have done since Game 6, until they finally face the Blackhawks on Sunday they won't be able to hide the ghosts of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final?
The answer, positively and absolutely, is no.
"Walking into that building…it's going to be hard to forget about it," Carle said. "We have something to prove going into that building."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl