BOSTON — I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I knew nothing, other than what it said on his stats sheet, about Mark Recchi before the veteran forward landed in Boston in a trade-deadline deal with Tampa Bay.
The guy has been in the league since since I was a freshman in high school, but he just never caught my eye. Maybe I just always chalked him up as someone who benefited playing alongside the greats of the game — the likes of Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros and others obviously grabbing most of the headlines.
Then he arrives in the Hub, you see the George Costanza hairline up close and realize you’re a measly sport writer who can look eye to eye with the guy and you say, ‘More than 500 NHL goals have come out of that?’
One month later, I’d have to be blind not to realize why this guy is ticketed to Toronto, when (if?) he ever stops playing. It’s not just the nine goals — including two tonight in a 5-4 overtime win over Montreal at TD Banknorth Garden — that have impressed. It’s his mere presence in front of the net, seemingly every time he’s on the ice, that has made a huge difference for the Bruins. He was brought here to bolster the power play by giving the Bruins a left-handed shot with a finishing touch, and he’s been that and more. Battling in the corners, along the walls, forechecking and backchecking with abadon. It seems like Recchi can do it all.
Center Patrice Bergeron on the other hand was never in the dark about Recchi.
“I was watching him when I was growing up, you know. He was playing for the Canadian team,” said Bergeron, who set up Recchi’s game-winner 2:42 into overtime. “He’s always been that type of guy. He’s always in the right spot, plays so hard and you can tell he loves the game. And I’m learning a lot from him and again tonight he was in that right spot on that power play and in the right spot for overtime.”
By the way, this guy is allegedly 41. But I want to see his driver’s license. Heck, show me his birth certificate while you’re at it. To not only still skate so well and have such soft hands, and take such a pounding around the goal … there are guys 20, 25 with less than half the amount of courage and perseversance in the most dangerous areas of the ice.
And Recchi admits that in his case, age really is just a number.
“I don’t feel my age, I know that. I never have. I don’t act my age, I don’t feel my age. So I still act young, I’m still immature,” he said.
Even after game 78 of his season, Recchi sounds as eager to battle on as a dog chasing a car.
“Honestly, I feel good right now,” he said. “(Tampa Bay head coach Rick) Tocchet was great to me this year. He gave me lots of rest. He made sure I got my workouts in instead of burying myself on the ice. And it’s enabled me to feel good still at this point. We’ve got another week and I’ll get a lot of rest and I’ll be ready for a big push.”
So Tocchet, a former Bruins player, might actually factor into the Bruins’ Cup run a decade later. Should the Bruins finish the job, Recchi would get to raise the Cup for the third time in his career. He figures that after that second Cup, he started to get more notoriety, even if this writer still failed to see the greatness in the 5-foot-10, 195-pound frame.
Recchi also says he’s OK with not getting all the ink, all the accolades over the years. That’s another reason he fits in with his Boston linemates Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew. You’d be hard-pressed to find two more soft-spoken but still pulverizing two-way players in the Bruins’ locker room or the league for that matter.
I’ve learned hard and fast who Mark Recchi is and what he’s all about and how he got here. If he keeps this up, I’ll have plenty more time to marvel at his accomplishments.