In many ways, Mike Richards is no different than any Canadian hockey fan.
He grew up watching the world junior championship every winter and still gets excited whenever he sees the national team play.
The biggest difference, of course, is that Richards actually has a chance to represent Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. But even a discussion about that event reveals some of the fan in him.
“With the Olympics coming up, I know it’s in the back of everyone’s mind as they’re playing (now),” Richards said Friday on a conference call. “What more exciting place to have it than in Vancouver?
“For everyone kind of trying out for the job, I know it’s in everyone’s mind as they’re playing.”
Canada’s first game at that tournament still remains more than a year away, but the event received plenty of attention this week as part of other year-out celebrations for the Games.
Even though Richards was insulated from much of the discussion because he lives in the U.S., it hasn’t kept the event totally off his radar. The Philadelphia Flyers captain knows that he’s among the candidates for the team and understands that his play is being monitored by Steve Yzerman and his management group.
It’s something he thinks about too.
“Right now as the season winds down, you want to do the best for the playoff race and for your (NHL) team, but at the same time (the Olympics are) always in the back of your head,” said Richards.
The 24-year-old has done a pretty good job so far.
Richards is on a point per game pace and has filled different roles on the Flyers. He kills penalties, sees time on the power play and averages more than 21 minutes per game.
While that kind of versatility could certainly be an asset to the Olympic team, Richards knows he’s far from the only Canadian-born player who possesses it.
“I think the good thing about the Canadian team is there’s going to be so many different players that you can put in different situations, and (Yzerman) is going to have a lot of tough decisions to make,” said Richards. “There are a lot of great Canadians out there that play different styles and different types of games.
“I think it’s just however he feels the need to put different players in different situations.”
For now, Richards dedicates most of his focus to the Flyers.
Entering play Friday, they sat fourth in the Eastern Conference. Even though the team has avoided a long losing streak this season, Richards still sees the need for more consistency.
“It’s nice to see that we can bounce back after a loss,” he said. “With that said, it seems like we can still do a little bit better with consistency in a winning way and not have those let-downs after a big win or two big wins and try to put that behind us and move forward.
“But it’s encouraging to see how the team responds after a loss.”
Coming off a 5-2 defeat to Ottawa on Thursday, they’ll be looking to bounce-back against to the Islanders on Saturday afternoon. The Flyers then visit the Rangers on Sunday.
As this season turns into next, Richards can count on being asked about the Olympics more and more. In fact, it’s something all the top Canadian players can look forward to.
Even if the native of Kenora, Ont., doesn’t get selected to play next February, he’ll probably be following closely on television.
“I’m always excited to watch Canadian teams kind of go at it,” he said. “I watch the world championships whenever I get the opportunity. I grew up on the world junior championships watching that.
“Whenever you see different countries play against each other, especially Canada, you always want to see your home country do well, and really it’s just good hockey to watch as a hockey fan.
“I enjoy watching it.”