Commentary

Retirement party for Mark Recchi?

Bruins veteran says he'll hang up skates if team takes home Stanley Cup

Updated: March 30, 2011, 2:13 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- There was a reason Mark Recchi wanted to return for his 23rd NHL season with the Boston Bruins.

"If we win a championship, I'm gone," Recchi said with authority following the Bruins' 3-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night at TD Garden, a game in which he registered his 1,532 career point to surpass Paul Coffey for 12th place on the NHL's all-time points list.

[+] EnlargeMark Recchi
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesMark Recchi acknowledges the crowd after his 1,532nd career point, making him 12th all time.

If the Bruins can't pull it off this season, Recchi says he will consider coming back for another shot at glory. But he really believes this could be the team that brings back the Cup to Boston for the first time since 1972.

When the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring, Recchi was completely dejected and considered retirement. While thinking about his future, he examined the players in the room and the future of the organization.

He says he came back because he truly believes this is the season the Bruins make Boston a hockey town once again.

"I hope so, that's what I came back for," Recchi said. "I know it's been a long time since this team has seen a hockey championship, and I know the direction Peter [Chiarelli] wanted to go in, and I liked it."

Recchi's 42-year-old body responded well after last season, making his normal offseason workout regimen easier to maintain and getting him to a point where he felt he still had something left in the tank.

He's proven that this season.

With his assist on Johnny Boychuk's goal at 14:22 of the second period to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead, Recchi has 34 assists to go with his 13 goals for 47 points in 76 games, including a plus-15 rating.

"I knew I could train well enough to get ready for this year," he said. "I was excited to come back and really try to get this thing [Stanley Cup]. We still have six games left and this has been a good process. We've worked hard to get here and now we need to continue it and still keep this momentum going into the playoffs."

While the most important thing for the Bruins is continuing to play well with the playoffs on the horizon, as Recchi pointed out numerous times while being asked about the milestone, his teammates were thrilled for what he has accomplished.

Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron was extremely excited that his linemate and close friend reached another mark in a Hall of Fame career. Boston's elder statesman said Bergeron has kept him young and kept him going the past couple of seasons.

"It's unbelievable," Bergeron said. "It's big names he's passing there and it's crazy how many points it is. I'm just so happy to be on the ice with him and to have a chance to enjoy something like this because I don't think I'll be there for that on my side. He's obviously a Hall of Famer and I feel blessed that I have a chance to play with him and learn from him."

The Pittsburgh Penguins chose Recchi in the fourth round (67th overall) in the 1988 draft. He's played for seven teams: the Penguins, Flyers, Canadiens, Hurricanes, Thrashers, Lightning and the Bruins. He hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head twice, with the Penguins (1990-91) and Hurricanes (2005-2006).

When he started in the NHL, Recchi thought he would be lucky to play 10 years, let alone reach the milestones he has.

"God, no. Never. I wasn't even supposed to make it, never mind do this stuff," Recchi said. "I was a 19-year-old draft pick and small back then. They drafted monsters back then no matter what, so I had to work hard to get there and I had some people who believed in me when I first started in the league and it really helped."

Recchi notched his first NHL goal and assist with the Penguins in a two-point game against the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 20, 1989. He was a teammate of Coffey in Pittsburgh and the two became close friends.

"That was a long time, 22 years ago," Recchi said. "Coff is a good friend and really helped me out when I was young. And we won a Cup together."

The benchmarks keep mounting for Recchi.

He became the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1,500 career points. He played his 1,600th game. He's moved into fifth place all-time with 1,647 games played and is one of only 11 players in NHL history to play in four decades.

It's safe to say these milestones never get old.

"Of course not," he said with a smile. "It comes on another big win for us and makes it that much sweeter. The guys played a good game tonight and we want to continue it. [Milestones] are fun, obviously, and these guys probably get more excited than I do right now. At the end of my career, I'll look back and be proud for what I did and how long I played. Hopefully my kids can really enjoy it."

During a timeout after he registered the assist on Boychuk's goal, his achievement was recognized on the video board at the Garden. Players on both benches stood, as did the 17,565 in attendance.

"It was nice," Recchi said. "That always makes you feel pretty special. This is a great sports town and there have been a lot of great things that have gone on in this city, and to be recognized for something for a night is pretty awesome."

Recchi prides himself on his ability to stay consistent and healthy (knock on wood), which makes his longevity possible.

Now that he stands alone in 12th place on the all-time scoring list, who is next?

"Ray, I think, yeah, Ray," Recchi said of former Bruin Ray Bourque, who had 1,579 career points. "But he's a long way away."

But Recchi could do something this season that No. 77 was never able to accomplish -- hoist a Stanley Cup with the Bruins.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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