Usually when people retire from their line of work, they cease continuing to labor in their field of employment. Mark Recchi may have missed this memo.
Although his competitive hockey days are behind him, Recchi continues to be active in hockey. Since his Swan Song Stanley Cup, Recchi has been a participant in the 2012 Winter Classic Alumni Game, Mario Lemieux’s Fantasy Camp, and most recently was a guest coach for Team Cherry at the 2012 CHL/NHL Prospects Game in Kelowna, BC.
The Kamloops Blazers alumnus has always followed his old squad closely, and has finally had the opportunity to attend junior hockey games now that he’s not travelling the continent as a player.
“I always watch. I pay attention,” admitted Recchi. “I know what’s going on, especially in the WHL and all the different teams – that’s the great thing about the internet, you can watch all kinds of different games. I watch all the Blazers games. It’s exciting. I’ve had the opportunity to come back three times and watch the team live, which obviously I wasn’t able to do before. It was really neat for me to get in the building and watch some games.”
Those thinking that this two-day stint as a coach may be foreshadowing a return to hockey for Recchi as a coach can hold on to their rumors – for now. Even though at age 43 he’s becoming farther removed than the younger generation of hockey player, Recchi knows he could still find common ground with players if he did choose to pursue a coaching career.
“No. Not yet anyways,” said Recchi, quelling the coaching notion. “I like the building side more than I do the coaching right now, but you never know. I think everything’s definitely changed since I played junior hockey and over the last number of years, but that’s like anything. I have five children, and I know how to handle young kids. I played with a lot of young players too – Steven Stamkos, Tyler Seguin – I’ve been involved with these younger players coming in and tried to help them. You can see it in their eyes whether they’re a deer in the headlights, or whether they take it all in and do the right things. That’s the stuff I really like to see. Most of these kids will have a great chance to play in the NHL for a number of years if they can keep doing the right things, keep maturing, and stay headed in the right direction. It’s nice to see how they react to it and to see how they handle it. Bottom line is they’re all good kids and they want to learn and get better. Yes, it is a little different world than what I had and I understand that, but you can still talk the same language. I’m 43 going on 25, so I still feel young.”
Some players who have won multiple Stanley Cups fondly remember their first as their favorite. After playing for seven different teams over twenty-two seasons and winning three Cups, Recchi feels his teams’ championship victories grew sweeter each time — and so did his appreciation for the effort it took to achieve them.
“They are all special,” Recchi acknowledged. “The first one’s great, but I thought every other one got better after that. I was 22 years old when I won my first Stanley Cup. I had won in the minors two years before that, and won the World Juniors… and then all of a sudden I didn’t win anything for the next fifteen years. We won the World Championships in 1997, but it was a long time until I won the Cup again in 2006. That one was special. Then to retire on a winning note, and to go out with a bang – I went to Boston to give it that one last chance, and it came through. They’re all totally different. It makes you appreciate how hard it really is to win the Stanley Cup – especially when you go fifteen years between winning another.”
His most recent Cup inscription of course came while he was a member of the Boston Bruins last season. While many have scrutinized the Bruins for being a reckless and dirty team that plays a “bad guy” role in the NHL (see: Lucic vs. Miller), Recchi contends people have those criticisms confused with their deep commitment to teamwork.
“I don’t think they have a “bad guy” mentality, I think they have an all-in team mentality,” Recchi countered. “We took care of business when it needed to be taken care of, but what people didn’t understand was how good of a team we were, and how good of skaters we were. We had better skaters and were deeper than people thought. People overlooked what we had on our team, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals. We were four lines and eight defencemen deep. We were a deep hockey team that was big, and we could skate. We felt in seven game series, we would come out on top because of it. We could skate and play with anybody. We definitely had some incidents though the year where we looked after each other, but we weren’t a highly penalized team overall. But when things needed to be taken care of, or if someone had problems with one of our teammates, we took care of it. We helped each other, and that’s why we were able to build something very special. We had each other’s backs – we knew management had our backs, we knew the coaching staff had our backs, and we had theirs in return. It was an all-in attitude.”
Recchi himself was not without receiving his own criticism in last year’s playoffs – he made a memorable comment that Montreal’s Max Pacioretty may have been embellishing his neck and head injuries after receiving a hit from Zdeno Chara. Recchi admits now that is was indeed a calculated veteran move on his part to deflect heat away from his captain.
“I was doing it to deflect some things,” Recchi conceded. “[Chara] was our captain, and he was very upset about the whole thing. It was a very hard thing for him to handle. He didn’t mean to and doesn’t want to hurt anybody. ‘Z’ is a great person. I said it to take the attention away from him. Pacioretty’s a heck of a player. I felt bad doing it, but at the same time, I had my teammates to protect – that’s the bottom line. ‘Z’ would have done it for me. Anybody would have done it for each other in our dressing room. We were there to look after each other, deflect pressure, deflect criticism, or whatever was needed. That’s what we did, and that’s why we were successful.”
Recchi’s former teammates continue to draw attention to themselves – most recently Tim Thomas, who declined his invitation to meet US President Barack Obama while the rest of his teammates showed up. Recchi was in attendance, but respects Thomas’ exercising of his right to choose.
“That’s Timmy’s choice. I was there, but that’s Timmy’s decision. I respect Timmy for what he is as a person, and as a goalie. Everyone has their own opinions. I would have went, but that’s your right as a person. He’s a terrific goalie – he stops the puck and he’s a great teammate to the guys. It didn’t have any effect with them.”
In addition to his Stanley Cup championships, Recchi was a seven time all-star. His 1,533 career points place him 12th on the all-time NHL scoring list. He’s also 19th in goals (577), 14th in assists (956), 15th in power play goals (200), and tied for 14th with Wayne Gretzky in game-winning goals (91). One would have to think a Hockey Hall of Fame nomination for Recchi wouldn’t be out of the question when time comes.