"Always do everything you ask of those you command."
-George S. Patton, Jr.
As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of General George S. Patton, Jr. He was a true leader in every sense of the word. He was a fearless warrior, a surprisingly thoughtful philosopher, a tortured historian with many former lives, a sometimes unstable egomaniac and an incredibly brilliant military leader. He refused to lead the U.S. Third Army in WWII anywhere but from the front and his men would have followed him to the ends of the earth. Indeed in 1944-45, they engaged more enemy, took more prisoners and covered more ground in less time than any army in history. Many of the principles Patton put to practice are now bing used in business classes and in actual businesses. I could make the argument that the very same principles could apply to organized sports, as well.
Enough of the history lesson. As you see above, the quotation states, "always do everything you ask of those you command." Seems to make sense. Nothing earth shattering there. Then, take look around at your life...is your boss willing to do everything he asks of you? Are your political leaders willing to do everything they ask of you? Are you willing to do everything you ask of others? If you can say yes, then you know a leader.
Name any leader you can think of. No matter whom you chose: be it General George S. Patton, Jr or Martin Luther King, Jr - all leaders share the same characteristic in that they lead by example.
What does any of this have to do with Mike Richards or Flyers hockey, at all?
Glad you asked...
Mike Richards is a leader. He has never led troops into battle or struggled against human rights abuses, but he is a leader nonetheless.
He was born February 11, 1985 and has packed a lot of hockey into his 22 years. He played 4 seasons for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL and was a huge part of the 2003 team that won the Memorial Cup and made the Memorial Cup Tournament All-Star Team. During his OHL career he scored 85 points or more two of his four years. He was drafted #24 by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round in 2003. Mike Richards joined the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004 for their Calder Cup playoff run and turned in a torrid performance with 15 points in 14 games (8g 7a). Richards was chosen to Captain the World Canadian Junior team in 2005 and helped it win a gold medal for the first time six years. Sounds like a leader.
During his rookie year in 2005, he made a successful transition to the pro game and scored 34 points in 79 games for the Flyers (11g 23a). Richards led by example from the moment he stepped onto the ice. This solid work ethic and strong two-way game continued into his Sophomore year, 2006-07 season, as he scored 32 points (10g 22a). Unfortunately, the team had to deal with many and varied injuries forcing many of the AHL Phantoms crossing the parking lot to dress as Flyers. During that exasperating time he continued to play hard, did what was asked of him and led by example.
Throughout his career he has been known as a natural leader. Not one who jaws in your face in the room, though that is sometimes what a leader must do, but by on-ice hard work and doing what he would ask anyone else to do. He has the ability, and most importantly the willingness, to play all aspects of the game, whether killing penalties, setting up the powerplay or anchoring the 3rd line and facing the opponent's top scorers.
Mike Richards is a future Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. Perhaps sooner than later. He may never win the "Rocket" Richard Trophy, but he just might be the most important of the Flyers' young guns.