Those nine words from Mike Richards caused his agent, Pat Morris, to take a phone call from Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and throw the bruising former winger for a loop.
Morris asked Holmgren for a fifteen year deal that would allow Richards to retire as a Flyer.
Fans who have watched Richards over his three year career can't help but compare the 5'11 185 lb pivot to Flyers Hall Of Famer Bobby Clarke. Both players were excellent two way players, who displayed grit, great leadership, skill and an insatiable desire to win. Granted, there are differences. Clarke was nastier and a better face-off man, Richards is more physical and a lot more willing to drop the gloves, but those differences are minor.
Richards arrived in Philadelphia after a great junior career. His first stop was with the AHL's Phantoms during their run to a Calder Cup championship. He joined the team one game into the second round and tallied 15 points in 14 games. That simply was a continuation of Richards' run of team successes. He was a member of a World Junior Champion and Memorial Cup winning team.
Richards brought that winning experience to a Flyers team in a state of flux following the lockout. He had a solid rookie campaign, especially as a penalty killer and defensive line role player. He did manage 11 goals, including 3 shorthanded goals. One of those shorthanded goals came with the Flyers down two men against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, the season ended on a sad note for Richards and the Flyers, in the the first round of the playoffs as the beat-up Flyers fell to the Buffalo Sabres four games to two. The speed of the Sabres exposed the Flyers lumbering defense and poor transition game.
That off-season was a strange one in Philadelphia. GM Clarke made few moves of real significance and the team was forced to heavily rely on the one legged Peter Forsberg and all star winger Simon Gagne for most of their offense. They needed second year players Richards, Jeff Carter and RJ Umberger for supplementary scoring.
Unfortunately, none of them matched their rookie year output. Richards endured a horrible goal scoring slump to start the season, but the rest of his game was very solid. He was a key part of the Flyers surprisingly good penalty kill unit, and filled the role of shut down center, which the Flyers hoped the retired Keith Primeau could fill.
It was a rough year for everyone-the team, fans and coaches. It saw Clarke step down as GM, and coach Ken Hitchcock get fired after just 8 games. Rookie head coach John Stevens stepped in and did about as good a job as could be expected. New GM Paul Holmgren was viewed as a stop gap.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Flyers hiring Kevin Cheveldayoff or Colin Campbell as GM-Holmgren proved to be an astute manager. He swung a number of trades that brought the Flyers excellent young players and prospects like Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, Lasse Kukkonen and Braydon Coburn. He traded a second round draft choice to Buffalo for goalie Martin Biron.
In the off-season Holmgren moved boldly adding 95 point man Danny Briere, 20 goal scorer Scott Hartnell and veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen. He traded the enigmatic Joni Pitkanen and underachieving veteran Geoff Sanderson to the Oilers for winger Joffrey Lupul and new captain Jason Smith. Those additions are a big part of why the Flyers have risen from the ashes of last year and are battling for the Atlantic division title this season.
However, the biggest reason for the Flyers rebirth has been the play of Richards. He's been a dynamo, leading the team in scoring, playing excellent defense against opponents top lines, scoring 3 short handed goals, including another 3 on 5 goal and improving his performance in the face-off circle.
When Holmgren originally approached Morris about a contract, he was looking for a short term deal, to buy time and see where the team stood vis-a-vis the salary cap and how the roster gelled. Morris told Holmgren to wait until camp to re-open talks.
It was then he had the fateful conversation where Richards uttered the nine words that serve as the title of this blog.
Holmgren and Morris hammered out a great compromise, signing Richards to a 12 year, $69 million deal. It's a deal that will keep the gutsy Richards in the Orange and Black until he's 35 years of age.
There are risks, but in making Richards the face of the franchise and ensuring that he'll be here in Philadelphia for a long time, the Flyers are making a bold statement and choosing a player that IS Flyers Hockey to lead the charge.
I look forward to a splendid and entertaining twelve years.
Please continue to vote for Richie for the 2008 All Star Game.