Sun Jun 19 04:19pm EDT
Mark Recchi(notes) played 1,652 games in the NHL with seven different franchises, leaving his singular mark on each city. He retires as a champion with the Boston Bruins, the third Stanley Cup victory of his decades-spanning career.
We asked some of the top hockey bloggers for each of Recchi's NHL teams — and one special guest — for their recollections and impressions of Recchi's impact on those teams.
What we received back paints a portrait of one of the grittiest, dedicated and inspirational players to hit the ice in the last 20 years — whether he spent 10 years in an NHL city or 20 games.
Recchi with the Pittsburgh Penguins
Seven different teams have had the distinct pleasure of employing the likes of Mark Recchi, but only one matters in the end: The Pittsburgh Penguins.
In his first year as the Penguins' general manager, Tony Esposito selected Recchi 67th overall in the 1988 draft. Granted, that draft wasn't exactly the greatest moment in Pittsburgh history, as Esposito passed over the likes of Rod Brind'Amour(notes), Jeremy Roenick(notes) and Teemu Selanne(notes) in favor of Darrin Shannon (zero games played for the Pens), but I digress. Recchi cracked the full-time roster in 1989-90 and from there, as they say, the rest is history.
Recchi's career is the living definition of the age-old saying, "don't burn any bridges." That much is evident in the fact that he played for Philadelphia on two occasions (91-95, 98-04) and in Pittsburgh on three separates stints (88-92, first-half of '05-06 and again from 06-08). He won his first of three Stanley Cups in that first run, left midway through the season in 2006 to win one with Carolina before returning to score his 500th career goal with the Pens in Jan. 2007.
Unfortunately, his third and final trip to Pittsburgh did not end well. Chalk it up to a slump, a drop in confidence or whatever reason you see fit. Truth is Recchi was not playing well and the front office responded by sending the long-standing NHL veteran down to the minors. After clearing waivers, the Thrashers claimed Recchi and it wasn't long before the Pens came up on the schedule.
After a 2-2 tie after overtime failed to produce a winner, it was time for a shootout. Petr Sykora(notes), Kris Letang(notes) and Sidney Crosby(notes) each missed on their attempts. Heading into the top of the fourth inning, The Recchin' Ball exacted his revenge and beat Ty Conklin(notes) to take the lead. Evgeni Malkin(notes) had still yet to shoot, but he didn't have to. Irony was on Recchi's side and you just had to believe the game was over at that point. I believe the look on his face is best described in a P.C. setting as an "excrement-eating grin."
In a perfect world Recchi's career would've come full circle and closed out with a championship in Pittsburgh. But if not the Pittsburgh black and gold then let it be Boston's. When Recchi raised the Cup for the last time in his career following the Bruins' Game 7 win over the Canucks, Pens fans had to feel good for him. If you didn't there's something wrong with you.
He came in a Penguin and returned to Pittsburgh two more times, but there was no question at any point that Recchi would one day go out on his own terms: on top.
Recchi with the Philadelphia Flyers
There are certain iconic numbers in Flyers history. Say the numbers 1, 2, 16, and 88 to a Flyers fan and it'll immediately trigger a response of Bernie, Howe, Clarke, and Lindros. Without question, all four players are associated with the Flyers. What may surprise you, considering the fact that over the course of his career he played for six other teams, is that Mark Recchi appeared in more games in the orange and black than all of the names listed above save for Clarke.
For a generation of Flyers fans, the image of Recchi wearing the No. 8 jersey and darting down the right wing while rocking a visor is just as iconic. The casual fan may not immediately think of Recchi as a Flyer, but in addition to appearing in 602 games in the orange and black he still holds the franchise record for points in a season with 123 (50 goals, 73 assists) back in 1992-93.
It could be argued that over a period of 15 years Recchi had as much influence on the fortunes of the franchise as any player. In the early 90's, as a member of the "Crazy Eights" line (along with Lindros and Brent Fedyk), he helped to right the ship of a floundering franchise. He was later shipped to Montreal in exchange for franchise cornerstones John LeClair and Eric Desjardins. After being reacquired during the 1998-99 season he helped to lead the Flyers to Game 7's in the 2000 and 2004 Eastern Conference Finals.
I can't say there was a signature Recchi play or goal from his time as a Flyer. For me it was his ridiculous consistency. It was his pitter-patter skating style as he'd elude a defenseman looking to close down his angle as he crossed the blue line. Twenty years from now you could slap on a tape of Recchi wearing a Carolina Hurricanes jersey (which he wore for all of 20 regular season games) skating down the wing and I could pick him out in no time. It was his willingness to go into the corner at full speed and use his low center of gravity to separate his man from the puck. It was that patented right-to-left move where he'd dip the shoulder and somehow get off a ridiculous wrist shot.
Despite winning three Stanley Cup rings with three separate conference rivals he'll always be appreciated by Flyers fans.
Recchi with the Montreal Canadiens
When Recchi was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in the shortened 1994-95 season, the Habs offense had been sputtering for the first few weeks.
In getting Recchi, they would be hopeful getting an player with offensive statistics unseen since the days of Lafleur and Shutt. Problem was the cost to get him. In all honesty it was too much/too early to sacrifice in a short season, as Eric Desjardins and obviously John LeClair made their careers with the Philadelphia Flyers
Recchi never attained the numbers he had with Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, partially due to the struggling ownership and management of the Canadiens franchise in the later half of the nineties. Despite that, he managed 322 points (120 goals) in 346 games for the Canadiens and 24 points in 21 playoff games.
His highlight as a Canadiens player was the 1997 All-Star Game, where he scored a hat-trick en route to being named the game's MVP.
Recchi could always be relied on every game, literally. He never missed a game in his three full seasons with Montreal.
Unfortunately the Habs and Flyers found themselves needing to make changes. On March 10, 1999 the Flyers, seeking offense in a hurry, had no problem giving up Darius Zubrus and a couple draft picks to a team that was fiscally strapped and Recchi becoming a UFA on July 1.
At the time, fans and Recchi alike were shocked. "They can't just keep getting rid of these caliber players," Recchi said after the trade (AP). "It's sad. People expect a lot up in Montreal. They've been pretty spoiled up there for a long, long time.
"I just couldn't get a feel for what there long term plans were."
At the time of the trade, despite only 12 goals, Recchi was leading the Canadiens in scoring, with 47 points in 61 games.
Recchi remained a popular player in Montreal, even when playing for the opposition. Unfortunately, his legacy in Montreal was badly tarnished when he questioned the Canadiens medical staff's assessment on the health of Max Pacioretty(notes), following the incident with Zdeno Chara(notes).
Recchi with the Carolina Hurricanes
Mark Recchi's stay in Carolina was very short but very sweet.
The trade, at the 2006 deadline, was necessitated by the injury that broke Erik Cole's(notes) neck and knocked him out of the last 22 games of the regular season and the first 23 games of the playoffs. A lot of bit parts went to Pittsburgh, while a proven leader and champion came this way.
Although he didn't immediately make his mark on the score sheet, he definitely did in the locker room. He had just four goals and three assists in the 20 regular season games, but his leadership and experience was immeasurable. In the playoffs, he was quite good, notching seven goals and nine assists including a huge game-winning goal on the road in game four of the Cup Final.
One specific memory I have of Recchi was from the first round playoff series against the Canadiens. In Game 3 of that series, Carolina's Justin Williams(notes) clipped Habs captain Saku Koivu(notes) with a high stick that ended up sending Koivu to the hospital and out of the series with a serious eye injury. It was completely unintentional, but a clear high stick that mysteriously went unpenalized. Recchi, who had played in Montréal for a few seasons, knew Koivu well and took time on the off day to visit his friend in the hospital. At that moment, it was nice to see Mark Recchi more as a person than as a hockey player.
I also remember the big impression that the trade itself made. Canes fans and the rest of the NHL knew that Jim Rutherford wasn't messing around. And we knew that Recchi wasn't messing around either. He had to waive a no-trade clause to come to Carolina. Part of the no-trade clause included a paragraph about the acquiring team having an option to renew him at a discounted rate, but we all knew that he was nothing more than a rental And a very good one.
Unfortunately, Recchi only wore a Hurricanes sweater for 45 games, including the playoffs. He will always, though, be fondly remembered by Hurricanes fans.
Recchi with the Atlanta Thrashers
The 2007-08 season was a rocky year for the Thrashers. After making the playoffs for the only time in franchise history the previous spring the veteran-laden club struggled out of the gate leading to the dismissal of Bob Hartley as the head coach. Executive Vice President and General Manager Don Waddell took over behind the bench and two months in to the season he claimed Mark Recchi off of re-entry waivers from the Penguins to add some veteran leadership and scoring punch.
Unfortunately Recchi wasn't able to make much of a difference, despite scoring two goals in his first game as a Thrasher which happened to be against the team he just won the Stanley Cup with.
The Thrashers were 14-14-1 when Recchi first suited up for the team on Dec. 12, 2007 and 29-30-4 on the day of the 2008 trade deadline when they traded Marian Hossa(notes), effectively calling it a season (they won just five of the remaining 19 games to finish the year).
Maybe too much was asked of the aging Recchi, who was 39 at the time. He played primarily on the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) and Todd White(notes) but also spent some time suiting up with Slava Kozlov(notes) and Bryan Little(notes) on the second line after Hossa was traded. In 53 games as a Thrashers Recchi put up a very respectable 12 goals and 40 points but also had the second-worst +/- among Atlanta forwards at -16.
On an aging team that lacked speed and defensive acumen Recchi was older than everyone and more turnover prone than most. Recchi's greatest value has always been as a battler and leader in the playoffs- qualities that were wasted in Atlanta when the Thrashers failed to make the post-season or even compete for a playoff berth down the stretch. It was clear when the season ended that the Thrashers needed to get younger in a hurry so the Thrashers and Recchi parted ways.
As it turned out, Recchi's biggest impact in Atlanta was probably on young forward Bryan Little who was ironically reassigned to the AHL to make room for Recchi in the lineup. When Little was called back up in February it was, in part, to learn from the veteran. Little didn't put up great numbers to finish out the year as a center, but when he was shifted to the wing the following season he exploded for 31 goals. Evidently some of the advice Recchi gave him stuck with him.
My favorite Mark Recchi memory is from a morning skate and has little to do with anything. As I was walking down the risers at Philips Arena to head to the locker room Recchi rang a shot off the crossbar. It went high into the air and I lost sight of it in the lights of the arena. Figuring the odds were in my favor I stayed put rather than try to get scramble on the metal steps in dress shoes.
The puck came out of the lights and hit me square in the chest, just missing landing in my breast pocket. Recchi had a nice laugh about it at my expense and gave me a good ribbing when he saw me in the locker room. I wish I could say I still had the puck, but I gave it to a PR guy to get signed for me and he thought I was kidding. The puck wound up in the trash.
Recchi with the Tampa Bay Lightning
The addition of Mark Recchi to the Tampa Bay Lightning seemed like another preseason reason to expect the Lightning be competitive back in 2008-09: He was another big name addition to the roster that former owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie were putting together during their first off-season. Mark did come to Tampa and perform, but the team around him fell apart. He had 13 goals and 32 assists in 62 games played (including a 5 assist effort against Calgary near the end of his tenure in TB), which earned Recchi the right to get the hell out of Dodge: He was traded to the Boston Bruins for Martins Karsums(notes) and Matt Lashoff(notes).
Recchi's legacy in Tampa isn't that much; he was just passing through, or so it felt. Yet Mark's effort on ice was one of the few positive and stable highlights of a season that Lightning fans would sooner forget.
Recchi with the Boston Bruins
Obviously we got Recchi in the twilight career, his speed all but gone and the Hall of Fame goal scoring touch diminished — but we loved every second.
There were times in the past couple years where Recchi seemed overwhelmed, the speed of the game too much for him. But you we, as Bruins fans, knew that when the Bruins needed him most the old Recchi would show up.
Whether it was a timely tip in goal, a thundering check on a much bigger opponent that you didn't think his small body could dish out or some harsh words to an opposing player who needed a respected player to set them straight, Recchi was always there. In our opinion, there is no Stanley Cup without the Recching Ball. His leadership on and off the ice help the Bruins breed the mental toughness they needed to get where they are now.
What we'll remember most about Recchi is his selfless attitude towards the game, his 40-plus-year-old body going to the front of the net when no one else would, blocking a shot or trying to fight people that were at least four feet taller than him. Him finding the last burst of speed to blow past Ehrhoff in Game 7. Oh, and him yelling "F***ing Right!!!" when Chara handed him the Cup.
We give a HUGE thanks to a man affectionately known as Rex. We're glad that he not only helped bring a Cup to Boston but also that we got to share a part of his Hall of Fame worthy career. Knowing he ended his career as both a Bruin and a Champion makes us even prouder to be fans of this great man.
There's no replacing him on the roster. He'll sorely be missed.
And finally, the great James Mirtle of the Globe & Mail on Recchi:
Here's the thing many people don't know about Mark Recchi: Many of those that saw him in the early days never thought he'd play in the NHL.
Recchi wasn't drafted until he was 20, when the Penguins' WHL scout had watched enough of his games with the Kamloops Blazers to come away convinced that the short, stout hometown kid who put up a pile of points despite his choppy skating stride could play.
His first year in the minors, he had 50 goals and 99 points and they won the IHL title. Two years later, he had 113 points in the NHL and won the Cup.
He eventually became the NHL's 12th leading scorer of all-time.
Recchi had a lot of doubters in the early days, but there are none now. He's going into the HHOF in three years, and as a fellow Kamloopian, it's terrific to see all his success.
He'll go out by carrying another Cup around Mark Recchi Way in his hometown this summer. And it's hard to top that.