Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet has a unique perspective on Mark Recchi. They played against each other in the NHL from 1989-99. They were traded for each other Feb. 19, 1992, Tocchet to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Recchi to the Philadelphia Flyers. They played with each other for Canada at the 1990 IIHF World Championship and for the Flyers in 2000-02. Tocchet coached Recchi on the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008-09 and worked with him with the Penguins in 2014-17, when he was an assistant and Recchi was a development coach. Here Tocchet shares his thoughts on Recchi, who will go into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, in a special testimonial for NHL.com:
You knew right away who No. 8 was. I didn't know Mark Recchi personally when he was a 21-year-old rookie with the Penguins and I was a 25-year-old veteran with the Flyers in 1989-90. But this little guy, not 5-feet-10, was very competitive and sneaky tough. He'd hit you. If you whacked him, he'd whack you back. At the end of the night, he had points. You noticed him on the ice and on the scoresheet.
I first got to know him when we played together at the worlds. We went for coffee before a game. Next thing I knew, he sprinted down the street -- in his suit. I didn't know if there was a burglary, a bank robbery, a fire. He just took off. Then I remembered, "Oh, yeah. That's right." I'd heard he'd go "high-stepping." That was his way of warming up.
I got to know him better after I was traded for him. I was kind of shocked, because he was a popular player in Pittsburgh. Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, all these guys who'd played with him, would tell stories about him. They called him Knuckles, or Knucks for short. I knew I'd better produce, because I was replacing a really well-liked guy who had won the Stanley Cup the year before.
Mark was a complete player. For a small guy, he did not play on the perimeter. He played inside the dots. He could protect the puck in the corners and score in the slot and in front of the net. He played on the power play -- the point on the power play -- and killed penalties. He was just a very, very good player in every situation he was put in, and that's hard to do for that many years.
He hated losing. I mean, if you lost the game, he took it personal. I've been in closed-door, players-only meetings when he wasn't afraid to step up and say the right thing. It's not that he wasn't afraid to hurt people's feelings; it was that he wasn't afraid to tell the truth. I think that made him a great leader.
As much as he was an intense guy, he knew the sanctuary of the dressing room. You had to have fun too. We had a lot of fun in Philadelphia. Craig Berube would be the last to get a massage before we got dressed, so one of us would tape something to his stick. It became almost a ritual, every game something different. It started out small -- a bucket, a broom, a shovel -- and at the end it was a wheelbarrow. Mark and Chris Therien brought a real wheelbarrow in, put Craig's stick in it and taped it. Mark liked pranks.
Mark was a real generous guy. He'd set up team dinners and house parties. When he played in Pittsburgh in 2006-07, Jordan Staal, then an 18-year-old, stayed at his house. When he played in Tampa Bay in 2008-09, he and Gary Roberts made sure they took care of Steven Stamkos, then an 18-year-old rookie. They'd have him over for dinner, teach him how to act like a pro. There will be players who, at the end of their careers 20 years down the road, will say, "Mark Recchi helped me become a really good player." That's a nice feather in your cap.
Tampa Bay was one of the lowest points of his career. Early on, he wasn't playing much. After I took over for Barry Melrose 16 games into the season, we went out, had a bunch of wine and talked. I said, "You've got a lot left. I'm going to play you a lot." I could see the fight just talking to him. I think he wanted to be reassured, like, "Hey, man, there's still enough juice here." He just had to dig in and say, "OK, you know what? I'm going to get my game back together." He ended up getting traded to Boston and was rejuvenated.
His last playoff run, he was the net-front guy on the power play, getting cross-checked, at age 43. That's what I love about Mark Recchi. He took that role. He didn't go, "Oh, I'm a half-wall guy," or, "I should be on the point." He ended up with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That line was excellent and a reason the Bruins won the Cup. He went out by winning his third ring. I was so happy for him, and I am now.
He's a hockey guy. He's as pure a hockey guy as there is.