Wednesday night wasn’t just another ordinary game.
As fans filed into STAPLES Center for the Kings’ date with the Washington Capitals, memories, emotions and eagerness followed. Justin Williams and Mike Richards, vital pieces to the organization’s two Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014 had returned to Los Angeles for the first time since their tenures with the club ended following the 2014-’15 season.
An ode to the two players’ time in Kings uniforms was necessary. A tribute video was played in honor of Mike Richards during the game’s first TV timeout, Justin Williams during the second.
“That was nice,” Richards said of the crowd’s warm reception. “To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. That was nice, as I said this morning, I’ve always enjoyed my time here. I liked it. It is what it is but it is nice coming back here and getting that warm reception.”
Richards, on the bench at the time respects were paid to him on the scoreboard and from 18,000-plus fans, was directed to the ice by Capitals coach Barry Trotz to take the face-off for the ensuing shift – a classy move, and one that made it difficult for Richards’ quiet, humble persona to dodge the spotlight.
“It was nice to be acknowledged,” Richards said. “Like I said before I enjoyed my time here, I had a lot of success, lot of great years and a lot of great memories. So, it was definitely a nice reception.”
“Humbled. Honored. Little emotional obviously,” Williams said of the praise paid. “I had a lot of my success here, team-wise, individual-wise. I’ll always have great memories, great friends here.”
Williams, too, was sent to take the ice for the ensuing faceoff following the video played in his honor. Known for being a rather emotional player, Williams was caught biting his lip as the crowd’s accolades.
“Of course, any time you get a reaction like that you’re going to have some emotions,” said Williams. “I’m not a stiff, ya know. I’m not a robot.”
MIKE RICHARDS TRIBUTE
JUSTIN WILLIAMS TRIBUTE