October 6, 2011

Recchi gets jacket, bids official farewell to NHL playing days

By Kirk Luedeke

When the Boston Bruins skated onto the TD Garden ice Thursday night with the Stanley Cup in captain Zdeno Chara’s arms, fans saw a familiar sight among the faces in the hockey phalanx: Mark Recchi

The right wing who skated for two full seasons and part of a third while wearing No. 28 for the Black and Gold was with his teammates one last time, although an official shift in game competition was not in the cards. Recchi joined in the pre-game festivities as the city of Boston and its hockey fans enjoyed the first Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony in 39 years before falling to the Philadelphia Flyers in the game that followed.

For Recchi, who made the trip to Boston after two-and-a-half decades as a junior, minor pro and NHL player, getting the chance to don the spoked B and skate with his hockey brothers was a special moment.

“I never got a chance to do Carolina and in Pittsburgh, obviously I was there, but never got a chance in Carolina (to be a part of the ceremony),” Recchi told assembled media during the first intermission of a 2-1 loss. “It was the last time I’ll be on the ice as an NHL player and be around my teammates in that aspect at least. To be on the ice with them and be in Boston with the crowd- the reaction to us winning the Stanley Cup has been absolutely amazing what this city has, how much they’ve embraced it and enjoyed it.”

Recchi came to Boston from Tampa Bay in what is now known as a famously lopsided deal in which the Bruins sent a pair of prospects in Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums to the Sunshine State for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer and a second-round pick which was later used to acquired defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski. Recchi fit in immediately with the Bruins, scoring 10 goals in his first 18 games with the club while becoming an important friend and mentor to Patrice Bergeron.

“He obviously did a lot for me in my career,” said Bergeron after the game when asked about Recchi. “He taught me a lot so it’s tough to see him go, but it was nice for him to be out there with us one last time.”

Although the team came up painfully short in two second-round playoff losses in 2009 and 2010, Recchi came back for one more kick at the can a season ago, turning 43 in February, yet contibuting to the cause with timely offense and helping steady the ship with his poise and leadership.

For his efforts, the team, which was represented by veteran defenseman Andrew Ference, who will be one of two players to wear Recchi’s ‘A’ this season (Chris Kelly), called him forward to be awarded “the jacket.” As a symbol of Boston’s run to the championship last spring, the 1980s vintage Bruins apparel that Ference found on eBay was passed to a deserving player after each win late in the year and all through the playoffs, with each previous recipient deciding on the new wearer.

“It meant a lot to our team,” Recchi said of the jacket. “It was a very proud thing for the guys after games, and we were very proud of it. When Andrew brought it in and we started it, it was a special thing, and to be able to get it last in Vancouver and then get it repeated tonight in front of your home crowd is something I’ll never forget.”

Recchi got the jacket on over his jersey and gear as the crowd chanted his name, but needed help getting it off again. He won’t wear it again, nor will anyone else for that matter.

“We’re going to put it in a case here and put it where it belongs, right in the dressing room, somewhere in the dressing room,” said Recchi. “That’s where it belongs and I want to keep it here. Every time I come into the dressing room, I’ll see it, and the guys will see it and know what it’s about.”

Recchi said that he’s coaching his son in hockey right now and indicated that he might do some work in television during the season’s second half to stay close to the game he loves. He hopes to one day return to the NHL in management, but for now, is just happy to take the year off for the first time in about 26.

“I need to take a break and hang out with my kids,” he said.

For Recchi, who retired with more than 1,500 points in his storied career, going out on top as a three-time Stanley Cup champion was a fitting end to his career.

In fact, the only thing that might have fit any better is that hideous, but unforgettable jacket.