By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — They say induction in the Hockey Hall of Fame provides immortality for the honoree.
Even if he wasn’t going to be inducted in Toronto on Monday, Mark Recchi would be immortal in Bruins’ lore both because of his tangible contributions he made to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and the immediate and lasting impact he made on alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and other Bruins he mentored.
Recchi played 1,652 games, scored 577 goals and accumulated 1,533 points in the regular season. He won the Stanley Cup three times. He had 42 goals and 107 points in 180 games over three seasons with the Bruins. In the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs he had five goals and 14 points while playing in all 25 games at age 42.
You know what he did between the boards and you know how he was lauded as a leader. But you probably don’t know one way he left a lasting mark on that season – one that still aids the Bruins today.
The Bruins were on a four-game losing streak in March 2011 when they made their only trip to Columbus. Before the game, Recchi approached Bergeron and I’ll let Bergeron tell the rest of the story:
“He grabs me to the side, he’s like ‘alright, I think you should talk to the guys today, I think you should have a meeting and step up and tell them … whatever you want, speak from your heart, but I think we need to play better.’ He was really helpful that way as a leader. Like I was a young leader and it was nice to have a guy like that to help me and to teach me when to talk and when not to. I remember that before the game in Columbus … we were going through a tough patch and he said ‘I think it’d be a good time for you and guys will listen or what not.’ He really helped me with that and now I’m better at picking my spots and knowing when it’s time. When you learn from a guy like that, it’s great.
“He was trying to teach. I’ll always owe him a lot for that.”
The Bruins won that night 3-2 in a shootout. They didn’t completely emerge from their slump after that but the tone had been set. Recchi, a player the entire league looked up to, could have taken it upon himself to speak to the team. But instead he chose to urge the younger Bergeron, the guy who would be the cornerstone of the Bruins for years to come, to take the initiative. That paid off in 2011, and it has paid off every year since then that Bergeron has been one of the leaders.
Recchi had been setting the standard for determination that Bergeron has strived to live up to since they became teammates in 2009. The tales of Recchi playing through the passing of a kidney stone during the 2009 second-round series against Carolina both impressed and repulsed Bruins observers. Imagine the effect being Recchi’s teammate and linemate at the time would’ve had on you.
“He’s throwing up, he’s like sick and he can’t move because of the pain, he had kidney stones,” Bergeron recalled. “And I was like, man, he’s not playing, there’s no way. And he was taking an IV and rushing to the bathroom to throw up. Sure enough I get dressed, I’m halfway done, and he shows up in the locker room, and puts on the equipment. I’m like ‘oh my god, I better be good today.’ You know what I mean? Like you see a guy like that kind of stepping up and wanting to play, you’re like ‘OK, it’s no joke.’ You want to pick it up for him and help him as much as you can. I was his centerman too, so I was like ‘I’ve got to help him out as much as I can.’”
The Bruins didn’t repeat their glory of 2011 in 2013, but that didn’t take away from the courageous effort Bergeron put in after he suffered cracked ribs in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against Chicago. Playing through that injury, plus a punctured lung and dislocated shoulder in Game 6, Bergeron wasn’t able to prevent a Blackhawks victory. But he set another benchmark for what every Bruins player should bring to the rink in terms of grit and determination.
Now Bergeron continues to pass on the experiences and lessons he took from Recchi. It impacts the next generation of Bruins leaders, like Torey Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. It’ll impact the likes of Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk, and eventually Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Donato, and others if they eventually become part of the Bruins’ NHL roster.
Mark Recchi famously retired after the Bruins won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in Vancouver. He’s worked for other organizations and is now with the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the League celebrates his Hall of Fame induction this weekend, there’ll be plenty of stories about him with the Flyers, the Penguins and the Canadiens. His time with the Bruins was brief and might not get as much of an acknowledgement from those outside New England. But here in the Northeast, and especially in the Bruins’ dressing room, those three years were as important as any in the Bruins achieving their ultimate goal in 2011. And those years laid the groundwork for continued excellence that the Bruins had in the years immediately following the Cup win, and the Bruins are trying to accomplish now, as Recchi’s influence continues to impact Bergeron and Bergeron continues to pay forward that influence to the players that could be the core of the next Bruins Cup run.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter@MattKalman.