PHILADELPHIA - Flyers West has a pretty large fan club bullish on their chances of winning the Stanley Cup.
Those cheers heard down the turnpike for Game 1 are from the actual Philadelphia Flyers.
Honest, they insist.
Less than a year after stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded on the same day by the Flyers, the duo skated for the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night in New Jersey.
But wait, there's more.
Kings assistant John Stevens is a former Flyers head coach (and a former St. Augustine Prep assistant). Kings forward Justin Williams is an ex-Flyer. Same with the Simon Gagne, who has been cleared to return from a concussion. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi is a former Philadelphia scout, and assistant GM Ron Hextall is on the short list of the Flyers' all-time greatest goalies.
Richards, Carter, Williams and Gagne all were first-round draft picks of Philadelphia. Gagne spent 10 seasons with the Flyers, Richards and Carter six each and Williams three-plus.
"You root for them because they're good players and we had really good years with them," Flyers president Peter Luukko said. "You want to see your friends do well."
Luukko is tight with former Kings great Luc Robitaille, and they often joked this season, "Wouldn't it be great if we had Flyers East vs. Flyers West?"
They were half right.
Carter has a hat trick in the Kings' stunning run to the finals and Richards is third on the team with 11 postseason points. Both were shocked when the only franchise they knew traded them (Carter originally was sent to Columbus) last June only a year removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
"We were pretty mad. I'm not going to lie," Richards said at Stanley Cup media day. "It's something I've never had before. I've never been traded. Jeff has never been traded. For us to be traded at the same time I think was a lot of venting to each other.
"Like I said, everything happens for a reason. If that was the path that was intended for us, that's great."