It seems like Mike Richards has found his way back into the NHL. Many thought they had seen the last of the 30 year old forward, who has won just about everything hockey has to offer including 2 Stanley Cups, an Olympic Gold Medal, a World Championship, and a Memorial Cup.
The first-place Washington Capitals saw fit to reward Richards with a million dollar, pro-rated contract. Despite his past issues, the Capitals hope to capitalize on the new, and improved Mike Richards. But the question remains, will this be the new, and improved version of Mike Richards?
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, Richards worked his way up to captain the club in a most promising career before discord with The Flyers lead him to being traded to the Los Angeles Kings. In L.A. he was a part of two Stanley Cup teams, and it seemed Richards could do no wrong. But it seems that Richards’ issues were eventually to catch up to him.
While watching the many interviews Richards gave, the one consistent trait I noticed wasn’t the quality I was looking for. I wanted to see it, but it wasn’t there. It wasn’t there because I don’t believe Mike Richards has arrived there yet.
Instead, I saw nervous energy, a lack of connection, smugness, shame, guilt, and an a lacking of authenticity. In fact the term, “fake it til ya make it” resonated with me while I watched him answer every question. Not exactly the qualities you would want to see from a man coming back after a tumultuous past.
Don’t get me wrong, I want Mike Richards to be successful. I want to see him make a rocky road smooth again. I want him to show everyone that second chances are possible, if you do the work to make them successful. Yet, I think Richards sees this as an opportunity in the game of hockey, and not the more important game of life.
What I wanted to see was Richards take the opportunity to accept the accountability for his actions in the past. I wanted to see him unburden himself with the guilt and shame he has carried, and probably hidden for many years now. I wanted to see him to acknowledge all the people in his world who believed in him, and whom he let down. I wanted to see him share his story so we could understand him better. In short, I wanted to see the man inside Mike Richards, and not the hockey player.
All the troubles which lead to Richards’ downfall aren’t unique to him, yet I feel he’s making it seem that way. There was a chance where his story could’ve been shared for others to understand, empathize, and connect with. He could’ve used that moment for altruistic purposes, and lead from a position of understanding. An understanding that he is a human being, and that he makes mistakes just like the rest of us. A human being who happens to have earned millions of dollars playing a game we Love, but a human being who’s story isn’t uncommon. He simply got caught up in the money, and game. He surrounded himself with weak people who appeared strong, and made some poor choices for his family, friends, team mates, coaches, and most of all, himself.
Sharing all of that would’ve taken courage, authenticity, and vulnerability. All the traits which a captain, and a leader draws power from. There isn’t a person who wouldn’t admire that courage, and draw inspiration in their own life to follow him to the end of the earth if need be. Leading from that way of being requires no explanation, because everyone understands it.
But does Mike Richards owe us that explanation? Probably not. The writers, fans, and public will probably hear Mike Richards’ interview, give it it’s two minutes of attention, and then move on to the next issue at hand. But if Mike Richards wanted to connect to the public, to have a powerful voice in the community, to publicly right the wrongs that he’s been responsible for, he didn’t show it in those interviews.
Instead of seeing him as a hockey player, we had the opportunity to see him as a human being, who happens to play hockey. But I got the impression that Richards didn’t want to be seen that way. So I guess we can treat him like a hockey player, and wish him well on the rest of his career. However long it lasts, I hope Richards will have a new lease on life, and see it for all the gratitude it brings when someone believes in you, and life offers you a second chance.
I hope Mike Richards recognizes, and makes the most of it. I hope he does the work in his personal life to seize that, and understand that this opportunity has very little to do with the game of hockey, and much to do with the game of life.
And the life he saves, may in fact, be his own.