Mike Richards sounded more like an employee who was just handed a pink slip rather than a job transfer out West.
The newest member of the Kings did his best to sound enthusiastic about the trade Thursday afternoon that brought him from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, but the Flyers’ former captain couldn’t hide the disappointment in his voice.
The 26-year-old center had fallen in love with the City of Brotherly Love, becoming so intent on playing out the remainder of his career in Philadelphia that he signed a 12-year contract extension two years ago.
“I probably wouldn’t have signed the deal, actually, if I knew I was going to be traded,” he told reporters during a conference call Thursday afternoon.
Richards was blindsided by the news, actually. He seemed even more taken aback that he learned via the Internet the trade had been finalized. Five minutes later, the phone rang. His agent confirmed the deal on the other end of the line.
“I never heard one rumor until 1:30 today,” he said.
For a player who spent his childhood growing up in Kenora, Canada, a small city located in northwestern Ontario, then played the first six years of his NHL career in Philly, the thought of a cross-country move to the vast metropolis of Los Angeles seemed staggering.
Especially if you never knew it was coming.
As attractive as Los Angeles is for wannabe actors and retirees, it doesn’t seem to be a top destination for NHL players.
Dustin Penner, who was acquired from Edmonton in a trade last February, displayed a similar luke-warm attitude when he first arrived in Los Angeles, even though the trade put him on a playoff-bound team and shortened his commute from his offseason Newport Beach home by about 30 minutes.
Penner cruised through the final two months of the season like a player who wanted to be elsewhere, disappointing fans and management alike.
Ryan Smyth, the third-leading goal scorer for the Kings last season, has grown so intent on returning to his roots in Edmonton, he recently requested a trade back to the organization where he spent the first 12 years of his career.
Edmonton finished dead-last in the NHL standings last season, and doesn't appear to be moving up any time soon, while the Kings made the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Home is where the heart is, apparently.