Monthly Archives: July 2011

Never Letting Go

Chances are, if you tune in to 610 WIP, you’ll hear Howard Eskin and Ike Reese talking about Donovan McNabb.  Every single time I hear a Philadelphia fan talking about McNabb, I cringe.  The Eagles wanted to go in a different direction.  McNabb didn’t deliver a championship.  He went through ups and downs, success, failure, praise, controversy, as well as a failed run at a championship.

Even after a year of his departure, the fans still talk about the “what-if”s, or the “what-could-be”s with McNabb.  They talk about if he was sick during the Super Bowl, and how they would have won it if he were healthy.  They talk about if he made a completion during a certain championship game, or something along those lines.  The fact of the matter is, those games are over.

Fast forward to this summer.  Mired in ups, downs, successes, failures, praise, controversy, and a failed run at a championship, former captain Mike Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.  The Flyers needed a culture change, and they decided to go in a different direction.

Out of nowhere, an article printed on June 25 brought Richards right back to the spotlight for a completely different reason.  Daily News gossip writer Dan Gross reported that part of the reason that Richards (and Jeff Carter) were dealt was because of excessive partying, and their indifference to a locker room policy called the “Dry Island”.  Players would write their numbers up on a white board to signify that they would not drink for a month.

There are two interesting points that come up here.

First, journalistically speaking, this was a total foul.  It lacks integrity, and it lacks relevance.  What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.  This sentiment was mirrored by General Manager Paul Holmgren (in Gross’ article), coach Peter Laviolette (on 97.5 The Fanatic), and Richards himself (on TSN’s That’s Hockey).  The article breached a sense of trust.  Everyone here has a reason to be mad at either Gross for being an irresponsible writer, or a reason to be mad at the Flyers organization (or just at Richards, you tell me).

Second, will we ever leave Mike Richards alone?  He has become the new Donovan McNabb of the Philly sports landscape.  He was dealt to Los Angeles a month ago.  Why is this newsworthy, or worthy of our attention?

He responded to the Dry Island fiasco rather candidly in his interview with TSN.

“[The allegations] couldn’t be further from the truth,” Richards said. “Unfortunately, things get blown out of proportion and things get said and taken out of context too. I’m not sure if people are trying to get a sense of it or trying to convince other people that it was the reason, but at the same time, it’s not true at all.”

The more and more I think about it, the more and more I see similarities between Mike Richards and Donovan McNabb.  We always find someone’s deficiencies to cling to.  The fact of the matter is this.  Both of these figures are gone.  Their tenures in this city are over.  They both got to the championship, but didn’t deliver.

The purpose of this blog is rather hypocritical, I know.  Let’s just take a look at our teams.  These players are not under a Philadelphia roster name.

If you thought Richards was or wasn’t a good captain, celebrate his contributions to the Flyers anyway.  He brought about another era of consistent playoff appearances, and spearheaded an opportunity to lift Lord Stanley.  He was part of the storied history of the Flyers, and labeled as the next icon.  Unfortunately, the chips just didn’t fall into place the way we all thought they would.  Sad, but true.

He’s Los Angeles’ problem now.  If there’s anywhere in the world to drink and party, it’s there.  We’ll see in the future if they care.

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At the Top

Mike Emrick has been an inspiration of mine, and the icon of which I have wished to aspire to ever since I started pursuing this crazy dream that I hold.  I’m sure there are thousands of people out there a bit like him, including me.  Difference is, they want to broadcast anything.  I want to be like Mike Emrick.  I want hockey, and nothing else.

Today, the 65-year-old Michigan native bid his farewells to the Devils and the MSG Network, and has decided to put all of his efforts at the top of the hockey food chain with NBC and Versus.  He has made it exclusively to the top.  He is “the man”.  Not that he particularly wasn’t “the man” before, he just is now more than ever.

On top of being the voice of hockey that people will miss desperately when he’s gone, he is one of those people that everyone should strive to be.  Some broadcasters lose their sense of class and moral once they reach the top.  Emrick is an example of one that retained his class.  I have seen a lot of broadcaster hate, especially in the past couple of weeks.  Doc isn’t one you should hate.

I don’t care if you think his voice is annoying, I don’t care if you think his anecdotes mean nothing.  He spends countless hours going through his hockey encyclopedia mind trying to teach the audience something they never knew while watching the best game on earth.

On an episode of the NHL Network show “Voices”, Dave Strader said that Emrick personally mailed a packet of 100 pages of notes to Strader’s hotel in Chicago for the Winter Classic.  On top of that, his expansive vocabulary puts a stamp on his brand of game.  It’s infectious.  You know it’s a big game.  No play will ever be as artfully and yet culturally spoken as he would describe it in the biggest moments.

I personally spoke to FOX Sports broadcaster Kenny Albert last week–he raved about Emrick by telling all of the Sports Broadcasting Campers this: listen to him intently.  You will learn how to broadcast well from him.  I’d like to say I’ve learned quite a bit.

It’s my dream that one day I could have some sort of correspondence with the man who sits at the top.  Doc spent years of hard work while digging in the trenches of the minors.  It’s a lesson that many broadcasters and many people could take from him.  “Hard work builds character”, I was always told.

I know I won’t be applying for any of the NHL broadcasting jobs that are popping up left and right this summer.  I’m still in college, and I want to finish what I started.  I also want to start at the bottom just to build the character I’ll need to be like Mike.

Doc, I will drink to you and your success tonight.  You deserve every bit of praise you garner.  If I knew a way to get this to you, I would.  For now, it stays here.

Congratulations on making it to the top.

The Past has Passed

We all know the last time the Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup.  It was a long, long time ago.  Not for lack of trying, though.  They have been to the finals several more times since then.  Ever since the back-to-back victories, there has been no replacement to the Flyers’ ultimate hero, Bobby Clarke.

When the Flyers drafted Mike Richards, instantly, he was tagged with the hero tag.  He is the new Bobby Clarke, no question.  Just a few years later, the Flyers drafted Claude Giroux.  Who does he remind people of?  Bobby Clarke, of course!  Then after the Flyers dealt Richards for Brayden Schenn, Paul Holmgren tagged Schenn with the Richards tag.  What does that mean?  He obviously meant to say that Schenn is like Richards, who is like Bobby Clarke.

Will the Flyers ever let their players be themselves?

The management and the fanbase seem so wrapped up in the past.  Every goaltender with promise is magically the next Bernie Parent.  Every big scorer is a Reggie Leach or Bill Barber.  When will we say that Claude Giroux is a standard for new Flyers?  Will James van Riemsdyk be the standard for new Flyer power forwards?  Will it take a Stanley Cup?

These comparisons to players that played in a completely different era seems unfair.  The team can’t be branded the Broad St. Bullies anymore because the game has changed so much.  Players prepare a lot differently.  It’s just different.

Mike Richards may not have had the ability to be his own player because of the lofty expectations put upon him for being the next Flyers icon.  Claude Giroux may be in danger of these same expectations.  Brayden Schenn is next in line.  What will it take for these players to be their own player?  When will management or the fanbase say, “that is Claude Giroux, one of the best passers and two-way players in the NHL”, and not “that is Claude Giroux, the next Bobby Clarke”?

Putting the pressure of winning another Stanley Cup championship to change that way of thinking is unfair.  What do you think?