Mike Richards was stunned.

Minutes after news broke that the Flyers decided to fire John Stevens and replace him with Peter Laviolette, both ESPN and WIP's Howard Eskin reported that Richards relinquished his captaincy to defer to veteran Chris Pronger.

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Different reports this week described tension in the locker room between Richards, the Flyers' young captain, and Pronger, who has captained multiple NHL teams.

"That couldn't be further from the truth," Richards told the Daily News. "I think I have a good relationship with every player on this team. Chris Pronger and I get along really well. We grew up in the same area.

"I watched a little bit of 'Daily News Live' and I want to clarify that there is no tension between me and Chris. There is no division on this team."

Richards was clearly shaken by the decision to fire Stevens, his first professional coach.

"My heart stopped," Richards said of the moment when general manager Paul Holmgren told him the news. "John has given me a lot. He made me realize my potential as a pro and he gave me the opportunity to succeed in this league.

"It's always the coach that gets the blame. It's something that is unfortunate and maybe not warranted."

Holmgren personally called Richards and Pronger. The rest of the Flyers were notified of the change via text message. They will hold a team meeting this morning prior to their morning skate at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.

"I think Mike was very upset," Holmgren said. "He seemed hurt. I said . . . that I thought it was time for a change. I didn't like the direction the hockey team was heading.

"I think the older guys will understand. For the younger guys who have been around John for a number of years, it's probably going to be a little bit tougher for them."