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Standing O for Mike Richards

Oct 14, 2011, 4:37 PM EDT

Mike Richards returns to South Philadelphia on Saturday night as a member of the opposing team. He may now be wearing enemy colors, but he deserves to be shown the appreciation Philly fans have for what he did here.
It’s said over and over and over. Sports is a business. And in the business world people aren’t always happy with the way many businesses are run. Sometimes you have unhappy customers, often times there are also unhappy employees. The best businesses try to make all interested parties happy while simultaneously delivering the best possible product or service they can provide.

In sports, that comes down to making money and, more importantly if your favorite franchise has quality leadership, winning.

Mike Richards played six seasons for the Philadelphia Flyers — wearing the ‘C’ for three of them — but Ed Snider and Paul Holmgren, following the unceremonious end to last season, decided it was time to take the franchise in a different direction. Mike Richards and his partner in crime for so many years Jeff Carter were sent packing, instantly transforming the marquee faces of the franchise.

This was not the way Carter and Richie wanted it, but it was part of the business of hockey. It’s not an aspect of sports that is likely particularly enjoyable for the players. And it’s often quite painful for the fans to see their favorite player sent packing. If the team that owns your rights wants to ship you across the country to be employed in Los Angeles, well, that’s where you’ll find your new employment opportunity. Sure, these players make a few more bucks than Joe the Office Worker, which can likely ease an abrupt life change, but it’s never fun being told what to do at any level, no matter the size of your paycheck.

And so Mike Richards will return to Philadelphia tomorrow to take on the same team he led for so many years, making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to come up short, and eventually be sent packing to the West Coast.

The off-the-ice stuff is unsubstantiated and something I choose to remember least when remembering Richie’s time as a Flyer. I like to remember the two-way play, the effort, and the hustle he showed after colliding with Jaroslav Halak, getting up, and slamming that goal in.

He’ll be wearing a Kings jersey tomorrow night at the Wells Fargo Center, now an enemy of the orange and black, but he’ll still be a damn fun hockey player to watch.

Richards left Philadelphia through no wishes of his own, with his goal of bringing a Cup to Philadelphia yet to be achieved. That’s just the way it turned out.

On Saturday night, Flyers fans should make it clear that they appreciated what the former Flyers Captain did for this team and this city for so many years. Mike Richards should get the same Philadelphia ovation so many other greats received upon returning to South Philly in a different uniform: a standing O.