Boston, MA – Mark Recchi is exactly 42 years, 2 months and one week old.
But don’t tell him that.
The future Hockey Hall of Famer comports himself with the enthusiasm and energy of someone half his age, and though he’s seen his fair share of adversity, nothing’s ever slowed him down.
This week Recchi was nominated by the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PWHA) for the Masterton Trophy, an award meant to recognize the NHL player who exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport of hockey.
A candidate from each team will be considered and the winner will be announced in June.
“Well it’s a great honor, obviously. It means I’ve kept on plugging along here and it also means I’m old,” Recchi said with a smile.
“But it’s an honor. There have been some great players that have been awarded this and it’s a privilege and an honor to even play in the NHL still. I love it, and it’s nice to be recognized.”
The Masterton Trophy was first awarded in 1968 in honor of William Masterton, a Minnesota North Stars player who remains the only NHL player to die as a direct result of on-ice incident. Since then, it’s been awarded to greats like Rod Gilbert, Brad Park, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and Cam Neely.
“When you see the guys that have won it and have been through a lot more than I have, obviously it’s a privilege to be mentioned for this award,” Recchi said.
Matt Kalman, PHWA Boston chapter chairman and founder of TheBruinsBlog.net, explained why the veteran was an obvious choice for the nomination.
“In playing in every game for the Bruins this season, and doing so with undying enthusiasm and desire, Mark Recchi proved age is just a number,” Kalman said. “On a team that’s dealt with tons of adversity, Recchi has been a player the Bruins can count on night in and night out for hard-nosed play and leadership.
“His cordial demeanor off the ice and ever-present smile make him a welcome fixture in the dressing room. All these things combine to make the future Hall-of-Famer a worthy candidate for the Masterton.”
Known for his tireless work ethic and mentoring of younger teammates, the two-time Stanley Cup Champion says he simply does what comes naturally.
“If you can’t come to the rink and work hard everyday, I mean, it’s an hour to two hours out of your day, who wouldn’t want to do that? It’s awesome, and like I said, it’s a privilege to play in the NHL. I love it and I love playing the game of hockey,” he said. “Why not come to work?”
The countless hours he’s spent over the years preparing for games has paid off time and time again. Before joining the Bruins, Recchi had been a member of six other NHL teams and has surpassed the 20-goal mark during 16 separate seasons.
He also remains the active league-leader in assists and points. Recently, he took his place in the 22nd spot on the all-time goal-scoring list, passing Guy Lafleur. Recchi currently stands at a total of 562 goals over his career.
As each year passes and the word “retirement” is tossed around with more frequency, Recchi insists that he feels better than ever as his 21st professional season winds down and his B’s battle for the playoffs.
“I still feel great and it’s the end of the season,” he said. “I’m definitely leaning towards the other way than I am retirement. But like I said, we’ll see at the end of the year. I’m still enjoying it, I still have a lot of fun and this time of year coming up here is what we ultimately play for and I’m looking forward to it.”
Though some have suggested that his age has become his greatest obstacle to overcome, those who have worked with Recchi insist that his experience is what makes him such a great leader both on and off the ice.
At almost exactly half his age, Recchi’s teammate Milan Lucic couldn’t say enough about the vet and what he’s brought to the Bruins lineup.
“There’s no question that he should be up for that award,” Lucic said. “He comes to the rink and works hard everyday, even, you know, there’s a lot of 42-year-olds that don’t move like him, but he’s a great leader.
“Definitely as a young guy, he’s someone you can look up to and even if you have a question, just to talk about anything. He’s there for you all the time.”
When Recchi was traded to Boston last season, Lucic admitted he was a little star-struck and in awe of Recchi, one of the most well-respected and consistent players in the League.
“It was more so when he first came here. But obviously, this year, when he’s moving up the goal ladder, it’s fun to see, it’s cool to see,” Lucic said. “One day, when I’m done playing, I can say I played with Mark Recchi, so it’ll be something cool to say.”
Bruins head coach Claude Julien explained how Recchi has become irreplaceable both on the B’s right wing and as a leader in the room.
“We’ve talked a lot about that this year, and rightfully so. He’s led us on the ice without a doubt,” Julien said. “Obviously his experience in different situations and in the dressing room, with our captain and our assistants, he’s been a good player that way as well.
“It’s hard for young guys not to want to follow when you see a guy that’s been around that long lead by example. His work ethic, and his commitment and everything else. I can’t say enough about what he’s brought to our team this year.”
While his teammates and coaches maintain that Recchi has been an inspiration for the organization, the ever-humble vet insisted that it’s the other way around. He said his motivation to persevere has always been his team and his determination to never disappoint.
“The one thing I prided myself on […] is you come to play everyday and you come to work. You don’t want to let your teammates down. You don’t want to let your coaching staff down,” he said. “I’ve taken great pride in that.
“If I can show that you can play hard everyday, you can compete everyday, then hopefully some young guys learn from it.
“You do whatever it takes it prepare for hockey games. That’s been the fun part for me and I’ve really enjoyed it. I like to think I didn’t let too many people down over the years, in terms of effort-wise at least.”