Mere moments after hoisting the Stanley Cup, Mark Recchi announced his retirement from the NHL. Of him, there are but two things to know, both of which are revealed by typing "Mark Recchi is" into a Google Search, and waiting to see what is automatically generated.
Mark Recchi is awesome, and Mark Recchi is old.
Mark Recchi is old
Okay, perhaps there is a little more to it than that. Mark Recchi, known at various times as T-Rex, Recching Ball, and most recently Dr. Recchi, has always been a gifted playmakeronce leading the league in assistsand has always had an abundance of energy, even when he turned 43 last February.
Instead of "old," perhaps "durable" is a more fitting word for Recchi, having missed just four games in the three seasons he's played since turning 40, and in fact playing over 96% of all possible games throughout his 22-season careeramazing!
Speaking of amazing, Recchi is one of only four players to score 40 points three times past age 40, sharing distinguished company with Mark Messier, Igor Larionov, and Gordie Howe, and his 61 points at age 40 are the eighth most in a single season. He became the third-oldest player to score a postseason goal, behind just Howe and Chris Chelios, the oldest to score two in a game, and just became the oldest player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final. Chris Chelios is the only older Stanley Cup winner.
Hockey Reference's ELO player ranker currently has Recchi just outside the top-100 all-time, right after Mats Sundin at number 109, but his incredible durability and longevity leaves him 22nd all-time in GVT among forwards, right behind Brendan Shanahan and Guy Lafleur. He's fourth all-time in games played with 1,652, behind just Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, and Ron Francis, and one more than Chris Chelios. He's 19th all-time in goals, 13th in assists, and 12th in points.
Mark Recchi is awesome
The incredible all-time scoring numbers previously listed, seven all-star games, three Stanley Cups, the single-season Philadelphia Flyer record for most points, a WHL Kamloops legendwe almost named him the greatest Canadian player to never make an Olympic squad until we remember he played on their forgettable 1998 team in NaganoMark Recchi is clearly awesome.
Given his 154 points in 62 games playing for Ken Hitchcock's WHL Kamloops Blazers, you would think his awesomeness would have been apparent right away. He had his number retired after he left, has a street named after him, and was named their male athlete of the 20th century.
Despite his talent being obvious to anyone within cheering distance of Kamloops, Recchi wasn't drafted by Pittsburgh until the fourth round of 1988, after such blue-chip prospects as Darrin Shannon, Mark Major, and Daniel Gauthier. First round selections that year included Mike Modano, Trevor Linden, Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind'Amour, and Teemu Selanne, all of which he has outscored.
In fact, scoring would immediately come easily to Recchi, who bagged 30 goals and 67 points in his rookie season at age 21 for Pittsburgh, sniping at a 21.0% shooting percentage, a rate he would only top in his sophomore season.
The next season in 1990-91, he scored 40 goals and 113 points, his first of four straight 40-goal seasons, won the Stanley Cupscoring 34 points in 24 games. He would go on to accumulate 147 postseason points in 189 games. He led the Penguins in scoring that season (Lemieux was injured and kept to 26 games, while Jagr was just an 18-year-old). The line of Recchi, Lemieux, and Kevin Stevens combined for 43 goals in 24 postseason games in that spectacular run.
Unfortunately (for Pittsburgh), Recchi was shipped off to Philadelphia in a package deal, ultimately playing with the "Crazy Eights" line to reach a plateau of 53 goals and 123 points in 1992-93, including four short-handerssetting the Flyers all-time single-season high in points.
His scoring dropped after a move to the defensive-minded Montreal Canadiens, but he made it back to Philadelphia in time for perhaps his best season in 1999-00, playing on the famous "Legion of Doom" line with John LeClair (for whom he was originally traded to Montreal) and Eric Lindros, leading the league with 63 assists, finishing third in points with 91, setting up John LeClair's fifth straight 40-goal season and earning enough votes to finish third in Lester B. Pearson voting, just five shy of Jaromir Jagr for second.
Recchi signed with Pittsburgh after the Lockout season, before being dealt to Carolina and winning the Stanley Cup, ending the second-longest stretch between Stanley Cups in modern history: 15 years. He went back to Pittsburgh, then to Atlanta, then Tampa Bay, and finally to Bostonhis eighth different team, before winning his third Stanley Cup with his third different team last year in 2010-11one of only ten players to do so in modern history.
Yes, perhaps Google said it best. Mark Recchi is old, Mark Recchi is awesome, and unfortunately now Mark Recchi is retired.
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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