Maybe lost a little bit in the excitement over the Bruins’ snapping of their four-game winless drought and the controversy over Brad Marchand’s hit on R..J. Umberger Tuesday in Columbus was that Boston forward Mark Recchi reached another milestone.
The future Hall-of-Famer skated in his 1,640th NHL regular-season game Tuesday, which put him in sole possession of fifth place on the NHL all-time list. Only Chris Chelios, Ron Francis, Mark Messier and all-time leader Gordie Howe played in more games in their careers.
Amazingly, at 43 years old and playing a style of the game that would put a licking on a player of any age, Recchi’s production has hardly dropped off. In 69 games this season, he has 12-31-43 totals. He is one of only four Bruins (along with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Shawn Thornton) to skate in every game this season.
The great hockey writer from Sports Illustrated Michael Farber penned an ode to Recchi this week. In it, Farber explains Recchi’s style of play like this:
There is nothing soft about it. Nothing easy. Indeed, now that he no longer has the grand burst of speed that used to whoosh him down the flank — those distinctive short, almost mincing strides don’t cover as much ice as they once did — his game has become even more taxing. Recchi is spending more of it wrangling with defensemen for pucks, mucking near the crease.
Bruins fans know what an inspiration it is to every other black-and-gold wearing skater to see Recchi battle the way he does every night. He certainly has his off nights and can go long stretches without points, but the effort level is 100 percent, all the time.
If Recchi skates in 12 more games, he’ll pass Chelios for fourth on that list. He can pass Doug Gilmour for 12th all-time with 12 more assists and he’s just four points away from passing Paul Coffey for 12th in scoring. Best of all, his play might convince him to come back for another season and the Bruins to re-sign him for a third time since he came over in an ’09 trade with Tampa Bay.
Of Recchi’s place in history, Farber writes:
The problem, in terms of figuring out Recchi’s proper place in hockey’s pantheon, is his name was never above the marquee. He was an A-Lister in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, a star in Montreal, a Stanley Cup-winner with the Penguins, and later a Cup mercenary on Carolina’s 2006 championship team. But there was always someone around who seemed more significant, if not always better, to capture the eye and the imagination: Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh, Eric Lindros in Philadelphia, Saku Koivu in Montreal. Even as Recchi became a vagabond later in his career, he was the sidekick whose name you can’t quite remember in Judd Apatow movies, playing in the shadow of Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk or Vincent Lecavalier.
Well, we all know where Recchi’s proper place is. It’s in front of the net creating chances for himself and his teammates, on the power play and 5-on-5. It’s at his stall after tough losses and dramatic wins to explain with great detail and passion what went right or wrong. And in a few years, it’ll be in the shrine in Toronto. For the Bruins though, hopefully Recchi will postpone taking his spot in that last place at least another year.