Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pride of Kenora would welcome Olympic invite

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U.S.-born athletes working in Winnipeg often complain about not having ESPN readily available with all its baseball and football news.

By the same token, Canadians working in the U.S., especially a hockey player looking for work on our country's Olympic team, find not having wall-to-wall TV hockey coverage just as galling.

For Kenora's Mike Richards, getting news -- at this point, most of it's gossip -- about who GM Steve Yzerman is considering for our hockey team at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games isn't always as easy as watching TSN to hear what the panel has to say.

"Well, I do have it in Philadelphia. My dad brought down a Bell Expressvu dish and I get TSN on that, but on the road it's brutal," said Richards, the Flyers' captain and one of the young Canadian stars hoping to earn a spot with Team Canada.

"It's all baseball and football down here. It's tough to get any hockey news at all. I'm a computer guy and always on the Internet, so I see lots of stuff that way."

Richards has 20 goals and 32 assists, sitting second in team scoring behind Flyers teammate Jeff Carter (34 goals, 25 assists). The Flyers (30-16-9) are second in the Atlantic Division, behind the New Jersey Devils, and fourth overall in the Eastern Conference.

"My focus right now is the Flyers and how we're playing, and hopefully getting on a Stanley Cup run this spring," Richards said after practice with the Flyers on Wednesday. "We're playing pretty well right now, but we have our ups and downs. We need to find some more consistency."

That's the answer we expected from Richards, who is as much about team as Terrell Owens is about himself. But it didn't take too much prodding to get Richards talking about the Olympics.

"For sure, I'd love to be involved -- anyone would. They'll hold a camp this summer and then pick the team in November or December. So getting invited to that camp is the first step," said Richards. "Pretty much everyone has the same plan -- get invited to the camp and try and play well and then start next season on a good note."

Richards recently set an NHL record in a win last Sunday over the New York Rangers, scoring a short-handed goal to become the first player in league history to record three short-handed goals in three-on-five situations.

"That's probably my first NHL record and likely my last," the 24-year-old said with a laugh. "Did you see the shot I scored on? The guy chasing me tugged on my arm and it kind of wobbled. You have to finesse it in the net, not power it."

The trade deadline is fast approaching and although Richards would love his team to improve, his answer makes it clear why his leadership skills will make him attractive to Yzerman and the rest of his selection committee.

"Sure, I'd like to add Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, but that's not going to happen. And I don't want to give any of our guys up," Richards said.

"Any team would like to add another top-end defenceman, but we've got such a great group, I wouldn't want to see it broken up. We like to play with each other, we like being on the road with one another.

"We're a young team that has grown up together and been through a lot together. I don't want to see us give any of these guys up."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2009 C4

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