Mike Richards and Jeff Carter share one of the most talked about friendships in the NHL. Since coming into the league, the pair - commonly referred to as Richie and Carts - has hardly been separated. Together, they've climbed the highest mountains and fallen into the deepest ravines. This is their story. (As told by musicians.)
Lean on Me by Bill Withers
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the same round of the same draft, just 13 picks apart. Though they played on opposing teams in the OHL, the duo became friends quickly - helped in part by repeat appearances for the Canadian World Junior Championship team in 2004 and 2005. After their junior seasons ended in 2005, both players assisted the Philadelphia Phantoms to a Calder Cup title. The following season, both players made the Flyers out of training camp.
Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day
By their fifth NHL season with the Flyers, Richie and Carts had both become dynamic players. Mike Richards had been both a Selke nominee and 80-point scorer in separate seasons. Jeff Carter, on the other hand, established himself as one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and one of the league's best goal scorers. The terrific twosome helped the Flyers sneak into the 2010 playoffs on the last day of the regular season, and then surge all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. That incredible run included a miraculous recovery from a 3-0 series deficit against the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately, the Flyers were undone in the Cup Final by the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games.
Swimming Pools (Drank) by Kendrick Lamar
Despite on-ice success, rumors swirled around Richie and Carts. They were partying too hard. Then-Flyers captain Mike Richards was at odds with Chris Pronger. Ultimately, GM Paul Holmgren decided that the duo's off-ice issues had become too much of a distraction. It was time to ship the Flyers' top two centers elsewhere.
California King Bed by Rihanna
Unfortunately for Richie and Carts, Holmgren dealt them to separate teams. While Mike Richards was dealt to the upstart Los Angeles Kings, Jeff Carter was sent to dreary Columbus. The trades seemed to spell the end for the epic friendship. All Mike Richards could do was wait and hope for the day he would finally be reunited with his bestie.
Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J
Fortunately for Richie and Carts, Dean Lombardi needed a scoring boost at the 2012 trade deadline. After struggling through injuries and general unhappiness in Columbus, the Kings and Blue Jackets had a perfect fit. For the Kings. That trade is still horrible for Columbus. What were you thinking, Scott Howson? Jesus.
The Kings took advantage of the hapless Blue Jackets, and the addition of the powerful scorer pushed the Kings over the top. To say that Mike Richards was elated might be an understatement. Los Angeles surged into the playoffs and then claimed the Stanley Cup all the way from the 8-seed. The duo finally completed the mission that they had failed in Philadelphia.
Even worse for Flyers fans, perhaps, is that Richards and Carter were not just passengers on the route to the championship. Mike Richards was a driving force in the Kings' opening series against the Vancouver Canucks, and Jeff Carter scored two game-winning goals in the Stanley Cup Final.
Gives You Hell by The All-American Rejects
The Kings didn't stop winning. The following season, the Kings again ventured deep into the playoffs. With their backs against the wall against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Kings would turn to Mike Richards. Just seconds remained on the clock in game 5 of the Western Conference Final when Richards tied the game to send it to overtime. Despite his late heroics, it wasn't quite enough. The Kings fell in overtime, and their dreams of repeating as champions had come to an end.
With the taste of victory lodged in their mouths, losing was a bitter pill to swallow. Once again, Richie and Carts helped a team recover from a 3-0 series deficit against a heated rival, this time the San Jose Sharks. They're the only players in NHL history to achieve this feat twice.
After dispatching the Anaheim Ducks, the Kings headed for a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps fueled by extra motivation from losing to them the year before, the Kings were able to come out victorious in an epic 7-game battle. Once again, the title of hero belonged to Jeff Carter. In game 2, with the Kings trailing in both the game and series, Carts put the team on his back and notched a third-period hat trick to lift the Kings to victory. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Kings knocked off the Rangers for their second title in three years. In both Cup celebrations, the best friends handed the Stanley Cup to each other.
Though the Flyers received solid returns for the former franchise cornerstones, it is no doubt frustrating to watch Richie and Carts not only succeed elsewhere, but be heroes. Meawhile, during both Cup runs, the Flyers were ousted early, leaving them plenty of time to watch their former players win titles. To make matters worse, no one ever shuts up about the connection between the Kings and Flyers. Including me! Because it's hilarious.
Losing My Edge by LCD Soundsystem
Though the Kings had ascended to the league's elite, problems once again were swirling around at least one half of the fabled duo. While the Kings were going up, Mike Richards was going down. During the Kings' run to their second Stanley Cup, Richie had dropped all the way to the team's 4th line. His scoring touch never really manifested in Los Angeles, and his level of play had dropped throughout his tenure as a King. To make matters worse for Richie, young players like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson and even Nick Shore pushed Mike Richards to the back burner.
Mo Money Mo Problems by Notorious B.I.G.
Rumors swirled that the one-time Selke nominee would be traded or bought out. However, Kings GM Dean Lombardi stuck to his guns and decided to give Richards one more shot. To free up space, Dean Lombardi traded one of the young centers competing with Richards, a prospect by the name of Linden Vey.
To Richie's credit, he came to training camp in the best shape of his life. However, it wasn't enough. Richards never really graduated from the 4th line for any extended stretch of time. His production stalled.
In the end, his contract proved to be too much for the Kings to justify. Richards got waived (to Carts' dismay) and sent to the Kings' AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. Rumors are once again swirling around Mike Richards. The speculation? That he'll be dealt to another team. At any rate, it seems that the league's most discussed and joked about friendship might finally have an on-ice finale.
There Will Be Tears by Mr Hudson
Photos found at theroyalhalf, 25stanley, Getty Images, prohockeytalk, nhl.com, si.com, barstoolsports, phillyinfocus, and philly.com.