Homecomings are a tricky thing in sports, often fueled by such emotion you tend to forget the reason you’re there and not here — in the first place.
So as much as the Flyers and their fans want to let Mike Richards know they appreciated his time here and wish him the best when the L.A. Kings come to town Saturday night, they have to keep in mind the main purpose of the evening.
Or as former Kings winger Wayne Simmonds puts it.
“It will be a good time definitely, but as soon as you step on the ice there’s no friends,” said Simmonds, who played for the Kings last season.
So don’t expect to see Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, James van Riemsdyk and the remainder of his old team taking it easy on their former captain, as well as another longtime Flyer favorite, Simon Gagne. Especially since a victory would give the Flyers their first 4-0 start since 1995.
“It will definitely be different to see him on the other side,” said Van Riemsdyk, who is expected to have a breakout season, in large part because Richards and Jeff Carter are gone. “But that’s part of the game.
“Guys do change teams and even though they’re your friends, you’ve got to move on. I’m sure it’s going to be an emotional time for him to come back — after all he did for the Flyers’ organization.”
Seemingly forgotten amid the disappointment of last year’s second-round sweep by the Bruins was the impact Richards had in his six seasons here. His 133 goals (23 of them shorthanded) and 349 points rank 21st in franchise history. Plus his epic 2010 playoff performance nearly guided the Flyers to the Cup for the first time since 1975.
“I just hope the fans appreciate what he did for us,” said the man who’s replaced him as captain, Chris Pronger. “He’s got an awful lot to be proud of.”
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The Flyers and their fans have two goals in mind Saturday night: Welcome Mike Richards back. Then, spoil his homecoming.