The Ballad of the Recchin’ Ball:
“I’ve broken 19 bones, 23 scars on my face, broken these pinkies at least 4 times each, ran into a goalie for this one, I’ve broken my nose more times than I can ever remember, I cracked my cheekbone, I don’t know where that one’s from, I can’t remember, I got a skate that sliced right by my jugular. People always ask me when I’m going to retire, I’ll tell you when I’ll retire…the day they pry the stick from my dead hands.”
Apparently, Recchi forgot his words spoken above in a Versus commercial filmed in 2007 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but we’ll forgive him for that. He’s earned it. After 22 years in the NHL, 3 Stanley Cups, multiple All-Star appearances, and 7 different NHL teams, Mark Recchi has finally announced his retirement from the NHL. Recchi retires as 4th all-time in games played, 12th all-time in points, 13th all-time in assists, and 19th all-time in goals. There’s a good chance that Recchi will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible, in three years. Before I continue, lets take a quick look back at Recchi’s NHL career:
Drafted 67th overall in 1988 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Recchi spent 63 games in the Penguin’s IHL affiliate, the Muskegon Lumberjacks, before being called up to the NHL and playing in 15 regular season games. The next year Recchi would spend the first 4 games of the season with the Lumberjacks before earning a permanent spot with the big club, where he would play 74 games in the 1989-90 season recording 67 points. The next season, Mark Recchi would break out and become of the league’s premier young scorers, leading the Penguins in regular season scoring with 40 goals, 73 assists, and 113 points. Recchi continued his strong play into the playoffs and finished 2nd in scoring with 34 points to Conn Smythe trophy-winner Mario Lemieux on the way to capturing the Penguins first Stanley Cup.
The next season (1991-92), Pittsburgh GM Craig Patrick traded Mark Recchi, along with Brian Benning, and 1st round pick in 1992 to the Philadelphia Flyers for Kjell Samuelson, Rick Tocchet, and Ken Wregget. Recchi would spend the next few seasons as a Flyer, where he put up a career-high in points, with 123 points in 1992-93, and followed it with 107 points in 1993-94. Only 10 games into the 1994-95 season, Recchi was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Éric Desjardins, John LeClair and Gilbert Dionne. While in Montreal, Recchi continued his strong play with 3 consecutive 70+ point seasons, before being traded back to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1998-99 for Dainius Zubrus, a second round pick in the 1999 draft (Matt Carkner) and a sixth round pick in the 2000 draft. Recchi would spend the next 4 seasons in Philadelphia, where he produced 5 consecutive 50+ points season, including a 91-point season in 1999-00, until he signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins in August 2004.
With the return of the NHL for the 2005-06 season, Recchi spent most of his playing time alongside superstar rookie, Sidney Crosby, scoring 57 points in 63 games before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline for Niklas Nordgren, Krystofer Kolanos and a second round pick in the 2007 draft. Recchi played in all 25 playoff games for the Hurricanes, scoring 16 points, and provided a veteran presence to the young Carolina team on their way to winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. During the 2006 offseason, Recchi returned to Pittsburgh, where he would once again play alongside Sidney Crosby, scoring 68 points and playing in all 82 games. Although Recchi seemed to find his stride with the Penguins in 2006-07, the 2007-08 season brought new challenges for the veteran forward. Accusations of poor leadership and disagreements with Penguins head coach Michel Therien, contributed to a reduced role on the team and only 8 points in 19 games. Penguins GM Rey Shero placed Recchi on waivers in early-December 2007 and was quickly plucked off waivers by the Atlanta Thrashers and would return to haunt the Penguins in the first matchup against his former team, by scoring the game-winning shootout goal. Recchi spent 53 games with the Thrashers in the 2007-08 season, before signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent. The Recchin Ball would spend 62 games with the Lightning before being traded to the Boston Bruins for D Matt Lashoff and F Mārtiņš Karsums. Recchi would spend the final 2 seasons of his career with the Bruins, providing veteran leadership and production with 81 games played in each season, with point totals of 43 and 48.
Recchi finished off his career with the 4th strongest playoff performance of his career with 14 points in 25 games, playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand. Throughout the Bruin’s playoff run in 2011, Recchi played a pivotal role for the Bruins, becoming the oldest player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals at 43 years young. After lifting the cup for the third time, becoming only the 3rd player to do so in three different decades, joining Joe Nieuwendyk and Claude Lemieux, Recchi announced his retirement in an interview with CBC.
So here’s to the Recchin’ Ball Mark Recchi, one of the most persistent players in the history of the NHL, who always had something to prove, whether it was to the teams who had passed on him in the draft, or to Penguins for waiving him in 2007 or to the doubters in 2011, who said he was too old to play. Recchi may not be the most liked Bruin, or former Penguin, but there’s no doubting his place in NHL history. As someone who was extremely disappointed in Recchi’s comment and demeanor after his departure from the Penguins in 2007, I can honestly say I was happy to see him lift the cup one last time and retire on top of the hockey world, as he has earned it through 22 seasons of competition. Congratulations to Mark Recchi and his family on a great career in the NHL.