By Matt Kalman
The 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins featured a Merlot Line, but maybe the most important red wine belonged to Mark Recchi.
When asked during his tenure with the Bruins, which ended with his raising the Cup at 43 years old, what the key was to his longevity, Recchi often sang the praises—half-jokingly—of red wine.
Recchi finished with three Cup championships, 577 goals and 1,533 points in his NHL career. In recognition of his accomplishments, Recchi was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday as part of a seven-person class. Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and forward Dave Andreychuk, who played 63 games for the Bruins in the 1999-2000, are also part of the Class of 2017.
Many people on and off the ice contributed to the Bruins rebounding from their historic collapse, blowing a 3-0 lead to Philadelphia, in 2010 to win three Game 7s and the Cup in 2011. Recchi made one of the larger impacts on that team, the only one to win the Cup in Jacobs’ 40-plus years at owner.
When Recchi re-signed for a third season with Boston, he signed a one-year deal and everyone assumed that if the Bruins won the Cup he would retire. Recchi, however, always made sure to dodge that question and never made the Bruins’ drive for a title about him. He amazingly played 81 games that season and had 14 goals and 34 assists, mostly playing on right wing next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron after Marchand ascended from the fourth line.
He had five goals in 25 games in the playoffs. During one stretch he went 11 games without a goal and some were calling for him to be scratched. But there was no way coach Claude Julien could remove such an emotional leader from the lineup and Recchi responded with three goals in the finals, and he had three assists in Game 6 and one assist in Game 7.
Maybe Recchi’s most famous bit of leadership that season came after Zdeno Chara’s hit on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty put the Canadiens player into the stanchion between the benches at Bell Centre and then into the hospital. In a radio interview, Recchi questioned the severity of Pacioretty’s injury. That’s when Montreal folks began to call him “Dr. Recchi.”
Some said he was trying to purposely take the heat off Chara, the captain. I don’t buy that Recchi premeditated that incident, but what he did want to do with that interview was expose the ridiculousness of the situation — remember Montreal fans were calling the police and there was an investigation into Chara’s actions — and loosen up the Bruins, to make sure they weren’t backing down from Canadiens or thinking twice about continuing to play the punishing physical game that accompanied their skilled game. The Canadiens organization and their fans may have felt their storied history gave them license to make something more of a hockey play than it was, but Recchi wasn’t going to accept that.
It worked and the Bruins proved they weren’t going to let the Canadiens intimidate them with their history or their privileged existence by pulling out a seven-game first-round playoff series.
Recchi’s leadership resonated on the ice with everyone from Marchand and Bergeron, to Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and the rest. His mentorship went beyond the rink and involved not just teaching the younger players the right way to be a professional, but also defusing off-ice controversies that sometimes involved not just the players but families and other people in the players’ orbits.
In some ways, he may have been like a coach on the ice with his years of experience. He might’ve been more like a father, or big brother, out there, making sure that the Bruins adhered to their one-game-at-a-time philosophy and they were the aggressors throughout the postseason, even in Game 7 on the road against heavily favored Vancouver.
It was always striking how every time the Bruins would play one of Recchi’s old teams, it seemed that that city and organization tried to claim Recchi as their own. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and even Montreal embraced Recchi as an example of greatness in their organizations, and Recchi made sure he would be part of Bruins’ lore with his contributions in 2011.
Now there will be a plaque in Recchi’s honor not only on the wall in the building in Toronto but also in the Bruins’ dressing room in TD Garden.