Friday, October 14, 2011

Sending Mike Richards Love Via "Letters For Richie"

When your favorite player gets traded, you have a choice to make as a fan. One would be you can abandon the player now that he no longer plays for "your" team. But if you're a true and loyal fan of someone, another choice would be that your favorite player takes your heart with him and you go along for the ride wherever his career goes.  It's like relocating to a new city -- you take some old favorites with you, but you make new friends and acquaint yourself with a new landscape, or in this case a different team.

In the case of Mike Richards, he has some of the most loyal fans I've ever encountered. Two of them even took it upon themselves to make his transition to LA easier by letting "Richie" know just how much he was loved and will be missed in Philly, yet welcomed to Los Angeles. 

This is the story of "Letters for Richie," a collection of letters written by fans of the Flyers AND Kings to Mike Richards, posted in a scrapbook gifted to the man himself. The ladies behind this amazing outpouring of love are Jaime and Kate, longtime Flyers fans and "new" Kings fans because they love Mike Richards that much. I was so impressed by the project I wanted to know more, and Jaime and Kate were gracious enough to answer some questions and even provide pictures from the finished book!


How long have you ladies been hockey fans? How long have you been following the Flyers?
Jaime: I have been a Flyers Fan my whole life. My Dad would get tickets from his job and take my brothers and I to the games from time to time and I was hooked on hockey and the Flyers instantly! Now that I am older I am fortunate enough to be a season ticket holder. 

Kate: I have been a hockey fan since I was a kid, I remember my first game was an AHL game and I was so into the game that I would get mad whenever someone told me how much time was left in the game. I just love hockey as a whole.  As for how long I've been a Flyers fan, it is the same thing. When I was a kid the only team I wanted to know about was the Flyers. I loved how they played and everything about them and although I'm from New Jersey I knew I didn't wanna be a Devils fan.

How did you become such huge fans of Mike Richards?
Jaime: I became such a big fan of Mike Richards because he just plays the game right. During the lockout year our AHL team at the time was in the playoff race for the Calder Cup and Mike had just finished his season up in Kitchner and he was brought in to play with the Phantoms for the rest of the year and from the first time he stepped on the ice until we eventually won the Calder Cup that year you could tell he was going to be a great player. He skates hard, wins battles, wins face offs, he just plays his heart out and I appreciate players like that so that is what really endeared him to me.

Kate: I became such a big fan of Mike during the 2005 NHL lockout. After his season with Kitchner ended he was sent to the Phantoms to help them win the Calder cup and I remember watching him work his butt off his first shift on the ice. He averaged over a point a game in almost every game, and was one of the big reasons we got the cup. But his hard work and his ability to never quit on a play instantly made him my favorite. Now today he's a veteran in the NHL and I'm still a huge fan of him.

What was your favorite moment during Mike Richards' tenure with the Flyers?
Jaime: My favorite moment during Mike's tenure with the Flyers has to be the goal he scored against Montreal during our Cup run in 09-10. It was just the classic battle for the puck and beating Roman Hamlik, never giving up and eventually scoring the goal against Halak. Also, when he won the Calder Cup with our AHL team.

Kate: Everybody always says the goal versus the Habs in the ECF and while that was definitely an amazing goal, my favorite was his first playoff goal in the NHL versus the Caps. He worked extremely hard on the play that drew his penalty shot and on the penalty shot he just skated in and scored like it was no problem. The best part was his goal celebration though, he grabbed some ice and threw it in the air like it was confetti.

The news of the Richards trade came as a huge surprise to Kings fans. What was your reaction when you first heard about the trade, and how do you feel about it now?
Jaime: I was in complete shock to say the least! I had been following the trade deadline all day in work and I had just left work when my phone started getting flooded with text messages about the Flyers trading Jeff Carter and then Mike 5 minutes later. I remember thinking no this cant be true. I expected Carter to be traded since there were rumors all summer about him possibly being moved but never thought Mike would be gone too. Then I was just angry about the trade and honestly probably still am a little. But hockey is a business and trades happen and he is my favorite player no matter where he plays. 

Kate: Honestly, when I first heard about the trade I am embarrassed to admit it but I cried a little.  It’s hard watching your favorite hockey player get traded but its even harder when he's going across country. I was also in shock, I couldn't believe they traded him. I can honestly say I never thought they would trade him because he was such a big part of our team. Now today I am still nowhere near happy about the trade.  I think the Flyers will regret trading him for years to come. While I'm upset he's gone I wish him nothing but the best in LA. I feel like LA will give him more freedom to be himself and not have to worry about media and all the stuff he hated in Philly. So LA will be a good fit for him, he deserves to get away from all the bashing he got in Philly, plus he's totally going to kick butt in LA! :)

How did the idea for "Letters for Richie" come about? 
Jaime: It actually wasn't our idea. I follow a local blog about Philly sports on Twitter and he had a post about someone putting a book together called "Letters for Richie" that they would give to him when the Kings played the Devils in NJ. I thought what a cool idea and planned on writing a letter to send over. I let Kate (a fellow season ticket holder and Richie fan) know about the book, she thought it was cool and wanted to ask the person making the book a few questions. After she sent an e-mail over to the "Letters for Richie" e-mail address, she was told that the person was no longer going to make a book. So Kate asked if I wanted to help her make the book with her since the original creator gave us control of the e-mail account. I said sure but Kate really did all the work. She put the book together and I tried to get the word out so that we could get as many letters as possible. 

Kate: The person who originally had the idea backed out of doing it, I e-mailed them some questions and was told that they were no longer doing it so they offered to let me take over the project. I said yes and asked Jamie if she'd like to help with it and she said yeah. So we then started getting the word out and trying to get some letters. I love to scrapbook so I offered to put the book together and Jamie did the promoting. I loved doing this book though, at times it was hard but it was always fun. It was almost like a baby to us because we both worked so hard on it because we wanted it to be amazing and worth giving to him. In the end it came out great and we are very proud of it.  We really just wanted to give Richie the goodbye he deserved. It was right around the time he started tweeting about how he wanted to be remembered in Philly and he sounded really sad that he could be remembered negatively. So we thought that he should know some fans really did appreciate everything he did for the team.

What were some of the best letters you received? What did people write that surprised you?
Jaime: That is hard to say really. All of them were good in their own way. Most of the letters just thanked Mike for his time with the Flyers and wished him luck in LA. While others shared their favorite moments of Mike as a Flyer or their own personal experience with him at different team events. We also got a few from Kings fans (thanks to the help of Kings Court) welcoming Mike to LA which was nice. After reading through some of the letters, some of them were a few that I thought not sure if I would say something like that in my letter. But hey, that is what makes the book special, I guess.

Kate: I think the best letters were the ones where the person poured their heart in the letter and took the time to write up a nice letter that has meaning. Some people only wrote a sentence letter that said "Thank you" which was kind of disappointing because he deserves better. The letters that surprised me were the ones where girls would confess their love for him, it was like they actually thought he'd track them down and marry them all.


So now that you have the letters, what happens next with your project?
Jaime: We ended up receiving 44 letters total. Most of them from Flyers fans and about 7 letters from Kings fans. Kate and I though the best way to do the book would be to put each letter on its own page and add pictures throughout the book. Kate finished the book up this past week and we plan on giving it to Mike after the game in NJ on October 13th. 

Kate: Well the project is actually complete now but basically what we did was make a scrapbook type of thing with all the letters from fans in it. Each page has letters and some pictures of Mikes career so far. Now that its done though all that's left to do is give it to him on October 13th after the Kings vs Devils game in Newark.

Do you have plans to see Mike Richards in a Kings uniform any time soon?
Jaime: Definitely! I have tickets to see the Kings play on October 13th in NJ and I will see the Kings a few days later on October 15th here in Philly. I also will be coming out to LA in November to see the Kings play the Canucks. And hopefully going to catch the Kings play up in Long Island against the Islanders in February. It is hard with the Kings being a West Coast team but lucky that when they do come out East we are close enough to take day trips to see them play. 

Kate: Of course, I am going to see him in a Kings uniform as many times as possible. I'll be at the October 13th game vs the Devils (Which is where the book is being given to him). I'll also be at the Flyers vs Kings game and possibly the Islanders game and I'm working on a road trip to Columbus to see him vs the Blue Jackets.

And last but not least, if the Kings and Flyers end up in the Stanley Cup Finals, who will you root for? 
Jaime: Haha! I am actually kinda hoping for this to happen and honestly, of course I have to root and hope for my Philadelphia Flyers to win! But if the Kings were to beat us I would be disappointed but I would definitely be happy for Richie, Simon, Williams, Coach Murray and Stevens as well as Hexy! I mean after all the Kings are the Flyers of the West! 

Kate: I have been waiting for another Flyers parade for too long, way too long so I'd have to cheer for my Flyers of course. We have a bunch of players who are older and their time is running out on their chances to win the cup. The Kings are a young team and will have a bright future for years to come. So I'll cheer for my Flyers to win the cup and for it to be a hard fought series and for Mike and all the former Flyers to do well and lastly for the Kings to win the cup next year. :)


HUGE thanks to these wonderful ladies for sharing their project with the Kings faithful! I'll follow up with them to see what happened with the the album delivery -- Richie will be stunned. 

If you'd like to get to know these wonderful new Kings fans better, you can follow them on Twitter! Jaime is  jski521 and Kate is kate_penna.


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