Nine years, four cities and 2,800 miles cannot break the bond New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer and Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards share.
Neither will the Stanley Cup.
“I love Richie. You know, we won together. He grew up in the organization I was running,” DeBoer said of Richards during his media availability at the Prudential Center Tuesday afternoon.
DeBoer was Richards’ coach on the 2003 Memorial Cup Championship-winning Kitchener Rangers squad. That team outscored the three teams it played in the tournament — the Quebec Major Junior League’s Quebec Remparts, the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques and the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets — 18-9. Richards finished the tournament with five points (two goals and three assists).
“He's a great kid. He's one of those guys you want in the foxhole with you if you're going to war,” DeBoer said. “I also know we have some of those guys on our team, too. It will be a great battle.”
Said Richards of his former coach: “He taught me to be a professional. That's what he did when he was in junior. He ran things with what you would expect from the NHL. That four years he taught me a lot. Probably one of the guys who taught me the most about the game in the sense of coaching-wise.”
Richards did not spend the entirety of his session fondly going down memory lane. He admitted that he and Jeff Carter were “mad” about the June 23, 2011, trades from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and Columbus.
“We were pretty mad," Richards said. "I'm not going to lie. It's something I've never had before. I've never been traded. Jeff has never been traded. For us to be traded at the same time I think was a lot of venting to each other.”
The Flyers drafted Carter (11th overall) and Richards (24th overall) in the first round of the 2003 draft. The duo became extremely close as they experienced success in hockey-obsessed Philadelphia. Carter developed into one of the league’s pre-eminent goal scorers while Richards was named captain of the Flyers.
But long-term contracts and a spectacular playoff flameout to Boston in the second round last season made both expendable in the eyes of the Flyers front office. In a bottom-line business, that Richards and Carter were key components in the Flyers reaching the Cup Final in 2010 was overshadowed by the team’s failings in 2011. Out went Carter and Richards in two deals for Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and three draft picks.
And out went the idea of the two ever being teammates again. But good fortune came their way when Carter was traded from Columbus to LA on Feb. 23 for Jack Johnson and a draft pick.
“We didn't expect this,” Richards said. “We were both excited (when the trade was made). Jeff was extremely excited to come to LA. You know, the rest is obviously history. We've had fun together. We've always envisioned I think winning together. Not too many people get that second opportunity, but we definitely have that now and we have to take advantage of it.”
You can follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman