EL SEGUNDO, CA --
Just 34 days removed from hearing the shocking news that he had been uprooted from the only NHL city he had ever called home, two-time 30-goal scorer Mike Richards
walked into the Kings locker room at Toyota Sports Center today, ready to greet the sea of hungry media that awaited him. Sporting a fresh tan, a plain black tee and Converse-style sneakers, he looked like any other mid-20-something who would easily be found strolling the beaches of Southern California.
Perhaps it’s because that’s exactly what he was doing during his first trek out West since June 23rd when he was acquired along for fan-favorite Wayne Simmonds, top prospect Brayden Schenn, and a second round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“Leaving Philadelphia I had a home there and a lot of friends, but I got out here Sunday night and I had some time on my hands so I started walking down the beach and you kind of think ‘it’s not a bad place to be and not a bad place to start a new career,’” said Richards with a sly grin on his face.
Having grown up playing minor league hockey in his hometown of Kenora, Ontario, Richards played just about all of his hockey on the East coast, and had very few experiences in his new environment.
“I didn’t know much about the city before I came here. I’m a Canadian guy, I didn’t get out here very much, and being in the East we didn’t play here very often, so it was a special place to play when we did come up here,” Richards said of getting to play in Los Angeles.
"I used to love coming to LA and playing, there’s just a buzz in the arena and it almost seems like it is in New York – you just get that feeling that you’re on a big stage and you get excited for it.”
Not everything about coming to the Kings will be new for Richards, as he played for Kings Head Coach Terry Murray and Assistant Coach John Stevens in Philadelphia. Richards also won a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics with defenseman Drew Doughty
, and spent five years playing center to newly-signed left wing Simon Gagne
“We’ve had a lot of success, and when I heard he was coming to LA, I got excited,” said Richards of Gagne.
“I think that’s going to help me out as well, not only with the coaching staff, but having a familiar guy on the ice who I’m used to playing with, who I’ve had success with.”
Center Jarret Stoll
, who has spent the past three seasons with the Kings, is looking forward to what his new teammate has to offer the team and their quest to delve deeper into the playoffs.
“He’s good on both sides of the puck, he can score goals, he can put up the points, play well offensively, but also be there responsibly defensively. He’s a physical guy and he doesn’t look that big or tall, but he can throw the body around pretty good,” said Stoll.
"He’s got a lot of respect among the league and among the players in the league, so he’s a guy for young guys coming up in this organization to learn from and look up to. He’s a good guy, good person, and that’s probably the most important thing.”
A true testament to this ‘good guy’ may just be the tattoo that barely peeks out from under Richards’ right sleeve. The words “family” “friends,” and “faith” may not be the first words associated with hockey players, but they will permanently be attached to this one.
“Family is the most important thing to me in my life, I’m really close with them,” said Richards of his retired parents, who have always supported him by going to games, and his two brothers he grew up playing pond hockey with.
“I have a lot of friends too that I’m really close with, and you have to have faith in yourself, ” Richards added.
“It’s a tough sport and it’s a tough business to be in sometimes, but as long as you have faith and know where you’re going and know what you can do I think things will always work out.”
With the beach as his backdrop, STAPLES Center as his playground, and a positive outlook like this one, it can easily be assumed that for this new Los Angeles native, things will work out just fine.