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Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 7:25 p.m.
If You Go
Philadelphia Flyers team captain Mike Richards came to Las Vegas this week on a reconnaissance mission.
With less than a month to go before the NHL Awards take over the Palms, Richards made a special trip to do a little pre-awards investigating.
After enjoying meals at Simon and N9NE Steakhouse and getting a taste of the city’s nightlife at both Ghostbar and Moon, the 24-year-old declared the exploratory mission a success.
He came, he saw, and he conquered. Now, Richards says he can’t wait to come back.
“It’ll be crazy,” he predicted on Wednesday morning, still not fully recovered from the previous day’s action-packed itinerary of interviews and venue tours (and the late night that followed).
The 24-year-old Kenora, Ontario-native hadn’t been to Las Vegas since he and a few buddies celebrated his 21st birthday a few years ago.
When he returns next month, Richards will once again bring a few buddies with him – if you consider several dozen of his NHL teammates and friends (and rivals, too) “buddies.”
A range of events are being planned around the awards show, including poker and golf tournaments, a pool party and a massive afterparty at Rain nightclub.
In addition to this year’s change in location, moving the gala from Toronto to Las Vegas for the next three years at minimum, the 2009 awards will be the first ever to be open to the public.
Passes aren’t cheap, but they’re available (for $514 apiece) at the Pearl box office. Included in the ticket price is an exclusive, player-packed after party at Rain nightclub and the guarantee of being in the presence of hockey royalty.
(Yes, sports fans, the league’s ever-popular commissioner, Gary Bettman, will be there.)
“I’m excited,” Richards said, noting that his excitement has more to do with the city than his chances of walking away with a coveted trophy on the 19th.
“I’ve been to Toronto 100 times so I’m excited for it to be here,” he said. “I mean, it’s Vegas; everybody wants to go to Vegas. It pretty much gives everybody a reason to come here.”
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said.
The awards will be a totally new experience for Richards, who has played for the Flyers since he laced up his skates for the first time as an NHL player, in 2005.
“I’ve never been to an awards show at all,” he said.
Despite being twice named team MVP and receiving the Bobby Clarke Trophy this year and last, Richards doesn’t like his Frank Selke Trophy odds.
“I don’t think they’re great,” he said shyly, “but I’m just excited to see what it’s like and just come to Vegas with my family.”
He is up against Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and the defending trophy winner, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, for the award.
The trophy, which is awarded to the league’s top defensive forward, is one of 17 that will be handed out that night.
Hardware for the league’s most valuable player (Hart Trophy); outstanding goaltender (Vezina Trophy); best defenseman (Norris Trophy); and rookie of the year (Calder Trophy) will also be presented.
While Richards’ latest trip to Vegas barely lasted 24 hours, his next visit will be much longer.
“I’m (going to be) here for a week so I’m going to be able to do everything, pretty much, that Vegas has to offer,” he said.
His parents and two brothers are also flying in for the occasion and they already have a few things planned.
“I think we’re going to go to Cirque du Soleil on Tuesday night, and my mom wants to go to the Grand Canyon,” he said.
“The first couple days (will be) like family vacation,” he said, noting that’s OK with him.
I don’t (want to) tire myself out too early,” he said.
Yet Richards conceded that some celebrating will likely take place before the awards show: And, as luck would have it, his younger brother will celebrate his birthday during the trip to Las Vegas.
The youngest of the Richards brothers will turn 21-years-old a day or two before the awards, meaning he will be able to party with the big boys come Thursday night.
“We might have to throw a party for him,” Richards said.
Palms Casino Resort has come a long way since its "Real World" debut in 2002. The boutique property features three distinct towers and a diverse mix of bars and restaurants across a 95,000-square-foot casino.
Palms, which features more than 1,200 rooms and fantasy suites, is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar transformation that will encompass an Ivory Tower room and suite redesign, new culinary additions, re-imagined gaming spaces and new, distinctive nightlife experiences.
In addition to newly designed rooms, during the first phase of the renovation, Palms will welcome Heraea, a high-energy American restaurant and lounge, and XISHI, a pan-Asian restaurant and lounge.
Fantasy Suites include the Hardwood Suite, the only hotel room in the world with its own basketball court.
Other amenities include the all-new Cantor Gaming® race and sports book, one of the few sports books in Las Vegas to include a poker room; SOCIAL; Scarlet; Chocolat Bistro; tonic bar; ghostbar; Pearl Concert Theater; Moon Nightclub; N9NE Steakhouse; Nove Italiano; Simon Restaurant & Lounge; Palms Pool & Bungalows; Kim Vō Salon; Drift Spa & Hammam; Brenden Theatres, a 14-theatre cineplex and more than 60,000 square-feet of meeting space.