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Hall of Fame

Rucchin: Focus was key to Kariya's success

Retired center says former linemate was face of early Mighty Ducks

by Steve Rucchin / Special to NHL.com

Someone had to be there to do the dirty work in the corners, the heavy lifting required when playing with the offensive-minded Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. That someone happened to be Steve Rucchin of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Rucchin wasn't always with Kariya throughout Kariya's time in Anaheim, but he was there at the start when Kariya made his NHL debut on Jan. 20, 1995 at the Edmonton Oilers. He was also with Anaheim when Kariya played his final game with the Mighty Ducks - a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on June 9, 2003 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Rucchin appeared in 735 NHL games, all but 119 with the Mighty Ducks. His final two seasons were with the New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers. In a testimonial for NHL.com, Rucchin shared his memories and observations of Kariya, on and off the ice.

 

I was a little disappointed and a little shocked no one had been talking about Paul making the Hall of Fame before the announcement. Just look at his stats.

This was a guy that played almost a thousand games and had a point-per-game average. If that doesn't get you in the Hall of Fame, I don't know what will.

We both started in Anaheim in 1995. My first impression was this was a 19-year-old kid who was not very big and then quickly became dominant. He wasn't looking for the limelight. He wasn't very vocal when he was in training camp.

Video: Paul Kariya is announced as a member of the HHOF

Because he was the face of the franchise, he had tons of pressure to perform. The franchise was still relatively new. Let's be honest, he didn't have tons of help to play at his level, myself included.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone more focused on his career than Paul. He was 24/7 involved in the game. Hockey was his life and his passion. He knew he had to be focused with the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. He carried himself well and passed the test with flying colors. It speaks to his character. 

Paul was a pretty serious guy. I've always joked that I had the worst dressing-room seat in hockey, in the corner. I got there and I was a nobody. The only seat left was next to the trainer's door, to the left. Then I had Paul on the right. Paul does not say a word before games. I had no one to talk to for 10 years. I used to joke about it when we played and I'm having some fun with it now. I had to sit there and twiddle my thumbs before every game.

Once Teemu (Selanne) got there, Paul was able to take a deep breath and the game became a lot more fun with someone he was able to play with. Someone that thought the same way and was able to play at the same caliber. Teemu helped Paul relax. There was no way Paul could have kept that same mentality for years and years. I think Teemu took a lot of weight off his shoulders. Paul was able to relax a bit more and laugh a bit more.

They love being around each other. That just stems from their time together on the ice. They absolutely loved playing with each other and it just carried over off the ice.

There's a story I can tell about playing with them in what was probably the worst shift of my life. We were in Colorado and starting against Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk going up against us.

It was the most dominant shift by one line that I've ever seen. We were pinned in our defensive zone for about two minutes. They must have hit about three crossbars, four posts. They never ended up scoring. I was just working, from corner to corner against these guys, digging the puck up to Paul and Teemu. They couldn't get it out for the life of them. I'm like, 'Guys you're killing me right now.'"

I was working so hard in the corners. It would go up their wall and right back in. I never recovered the whole game. It was funny.

I'm like, 'Do me a favor and get the puck out once, please.'

When I heard they were going in the Hall of Fame together, I kind of laughed. It's fitting, I suppose. I don't know if they purposely did that or not. But if there were any two guys that deserve to go into together, it's those two.

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