Recchi

WILMINGTON, Mass. – This seasons he’s been a solid candidate to be honored as one of the Bruins’ most valuable player, so Mark Recchi has come to a revelation that even at 42 his Hall-of-Fame career might not be done.

“I still feel great and it’s the end of the season. I’m definitely leaning towards the other way than I’m leaning toward retirement,” he said after practice today at Ristuccia Arena. “We’ll see at the end of the year. I’m still enjoying it, I still have a lot of fun and this time of year coming up here is what we ultimately play for and I’m looking forward to it soon.”

While there won’t be much postseason hardware coming his way, nor is it probable the Bruins will bring him any playoff glory, Recchi can at least take solace that the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association has named him its nominee for the 2010 Masterton Trophy.

The Masterton honors the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” Past winners of the overall award have been Phil Kessel, Saku Koivu and Jason Blake – players that have overcome illness and/or injury – among others. Recchi, who has played with some former finalists and winners of the award, is honored to be considered among some of his most inspirational peers.

“If you can’t come to the rink and work hard every day … it’s an hour to two hours out of your day. Who wouldn’t want to do that? It’s awesome,” he explained. “It’s a privilege to play in the NHL, I love it, playing the game of hockey, and why not come and work? When you see the guys that have won it that have been through a lot more than I have, then obviously it’s a privilege to be mentioned for this award and hopefully when it’s all said and done there’s some young players that have learned from me and I’ve made a little bit of an impact somewhere.”

The Bruins have battled through injuries and inconsistency all season long. After entering the season among a handful of Stanley Cup contenders, the Bruins are still in danger of missing the playoffs with just three games to play.

Yet Recchi, who returned to the Bruins on just a one-year contract, is one of three players (along with Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler) to play in every game. And he’s rarely missed a practice, despite early season plans by Recchi and the coaching staff to rest the veteran as often as possible. Plus Recchi’s minutes have been valuable, as he has contributed 17 goals and 42 points – tied for third on the team in scoring. Imagine where the Bruins’ league-worst offense would be without him.

Some players with such an impressive resume (2 Cup rings, 562 goals, 1,484 points) would coast in the face of such adversity. But Recchi has just worked hard, both for himself and his teammates.

“Injuries have been real hard for our hockey club this year. But the one thing I’ve prided myself on, even in juniors and while growing up, is you come to play every day and you come to work and you don’t want to let your teammates down, you don’t want to let your coaching staff down,” he said. “I’ve taken great pride in that. And if I can show that you can play hard every day, you can compete every day, then hopefully some young guys learn from that and they take it and grab it and learn.

“Obviously I have to get more rest than I did when I was younger. I don’t hit the gym as much as I used to. But at the same time, rest is very important and when you get on the ice for practice you give it 100 percent and you work hard and you get ready for the game. You do whatever it takes to get ready for hockey games. That’s been the fun part for me. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’d like to think I didn’t let too many people down over the years in terms of effort-wise.”

Recchi certainly hasn’t let the Bruins down since they acquired him last spring at the trade deadline. He battled through the second-round playoff loss to Carolina after passing a kidney stone. Then he decided to come back and try to finish what he started in black and gold after the disappointment of falling to the Hurricanes.

Recchi’s vital presence on the Bruins makes a huge impression on anyone that watches the team’s games. That presence might be felt for years to come, even beyond Recchi’s retirement, because of what he has tried to pass on to some of the club’s core players – some who are half his age.

“There’s no question that he should be up for that award,” said winger Milan Lucic, 21. “He comes to the rink, works hard every day, even though there’s a lot of 42-year-olds that don’t move like him. But he’s great. He’s a great leader. As a young guy, he’s someone you can look up to and even if you have a question, just to talk about anything, he’s there for you all the time.”

Once Recchi makes the decision to keep playing, he’ll have to decide where. Boston is definitely a strong contender, he said. (Although, what’s he really going to say with the team fighting for its lives?)

“They’re handing out contracts left and right these days, so who knows?” he joked.

If Recchi wants to return to Boston, and the Bruins want to bring him back, there’ll at least be one player in a black-and-gold sweater that no one can question in terms of heart, desire and determination. Recchi will fight for everything, as long as he’s given the chance.

“That’s all you ever ask. And that’s all I ever do ask all season, is I’m going to show, I earn the right to play,” he said. “I don’t go into a season thinking I’m entitled to anything, and I never have. And maybe that’s why I’ve lasted as long as I have. I want to prove to my coaching staff, my teammates that I can play those roles, that I can be counted it. It’ll be no different if I decide to come back next year. I’ll earn it, I’ll earn my ice time and I’ll earn my role, whatever that may be.”

For this year, Recchi’s not only earned a place among the top three or four Bruins performers, he’s also earned a Masterton nomination.