July 15, 2011

From NEHJ: Recchi goes out on top

by Jesse Connolly

Mark Recchi hoists his third and final Stanley Cup. He also won in 1991 with Pittsburgh and 2006 with Carolina. (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Mark Recchi made the decision last summer to rejoin the Bruins for one more season, one in which he’d celebrate his 43rd birthday, there was one reason for motivation and one alone.

In what would be his 22nd year in the NHL, Recchi wanted nothing more than to ride off into the sunset with the Stanley Cup in tow. A winner of hockey’s Holy Grail in 1991 with Pittsburgh and again in 2006 with Carolina, the future Hall of Famer was determined to add a third championship to his resume, but it wasn’t simply for his own gratification.

“You know, I was fortunate to win one early in my career,” Recchi said. “From ’06 when I won in Carolina to every playoff I’ve played in after that, I’ve been able to embrace it and enjoy it and watch how guys react and watch how they’re acting and enjoy the experience of seeing guys go through their firsts. It’s neat when you’re able to do that. I’ve been doing that for a number of years now, and it’s been just a great, great year this year for me.”

But Recchi was anything but a passenger throughout the Bruins’ scintillating playoff ride and wasn’t riding anyone’s coattails along the way.

The team’s elder statesman was like a father figure to linemates Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand, and likely made an impression on them that will last a lifetime thanks to his unrelenting guidance and unrivaled work ethic. He showed teammates both young and old the kind of determination it takes from the opening faceoff until the final horn to make it through the gauntlet that is the NHL postseason.

That, however, isn’t to say Recchi didn’t make a tremendous impact outside of his role as a respected leader in the dressing room. The man drafted 67th overall by the Penguins way back in 1988 chipped in 14 points in 25 playoff games, seven of which came in the finals against the Canucks to help the Bruins win their first Stanley Cup in 39 years.

“I can’t thank Boston fans enough,” Recchi told the crowd surrounding TD Garden before the Bruins’ rolling rally got under way.

“This group of guys, if it wasn’t for you guys, we wouldn’t have gotten this far. It’s unbelievable. I can’t thank the Bruins organization (enough) for making my last few years amazing and getting the opportunity to play with these guys in here now.

“We started in Vermont from training camp, went to Prague. We played together, we drank together, we lost together, and it never wavered. But the one thing we really did together is we won.”

Recchi surpassed a number of all-time greats over the course of the 2010-11 season, finishing his career fourth in games played and 12th in points among all men to ever play the game at its highest level.

And while Recchi is certainly proud of those feats, they weren’t why he stuck around past the two-decade mark in the NHL. All he wanted was to get his hands on the most hallowed trophy in all of sports just one last time.

“What a feeling this is,” Recchi said after the Bruins’ 4-0 win in Game 7. “What a great group of guys. No matter what happened tonight, this was one of the best groups I’ve ever played with. This is a great way to go out on top for me. I’ve had a helluva run.”

He sure did.

THE STAT

Brad Marchand’s five goals in the Stanley Cup Finals tied former Bruin Roy Conacher (1939) for the rookie record.

THE NOTES

Tim Thomas’ list of accolades continued to grow June 22 in Las Vegas, where the Bruins netminder was named the winner of the Vezina Trophy for the second time in three years. Thomas beat out fellow Stanley Cup finalist Roberto Luongo of the Canucks and Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. …

Zdeno Chara also was a winner at the NHL Awards show, though not in the category most had predicted. The Bruins captain finished third for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. Nicklas Lidstrom took home the honor for the seventh time in his career, while Shea Weber placed second in the voting. Chara, however, received the Mark Messier Leadership Award later in the evening, in recognition of his abilities as a leader within both the team and his community. …

Longtime broadcaster Lanny Lee Larson, better known to those that recall his days of Bruins and Red Sox coverage on both UPN and NESN as Tom Larson, sarcastically made a vow nearly 30 years ago, on-air, that he wouldn’t shave until the Bruins won another Stanley Cup. Larson proved to be a man of his word, as the Norwell, Mass., resident headed to a local barbershop to go for the clean-shaven look for the first time since the Bruins’ opening night in 1981.

“I meant it as a rallying cry, a statement, a way to get closer to the fans,” Larson told the Boston Globe. “When I first started wearing a beard, the Bruins were in it every season. Who knew it would take this long?”

Now that’s dedication.

This article originally appeared in the Bruins Clubhouse section of the July 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal. 

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com