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For Recchi, the Hall of Fame is now real

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Last Thursday Mark Recchi was getting ready to make a trip to Toronto for the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction weekend. Recchi, who had played in 22 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups, is a member of the Class of 2017. 

But with his duties as an assistant coach for the Penguins, Recchi had little time to really reflect about his accomplishments.

"I've been so busy that I really haven't," Recchi said on Thursday. "All of the players that are in it, and all the players that I played with that are Hall of Famers, it's going to be very special to be a part of that group. I never could have imagined when I started playing as a young kid that I would be in this situation. It's going to be pretty neat.

"It's pretty surreal still."

But that surreal feeling became a reality on Friday after Recchi received his Hall of Fame ring, saw his plaque hanging among legends of the past and stood in the hallowed halls of the extraordinary.

"Now it's for real," Recchi laughed. "What an incredible feeling being here and seeing the guys and Danielle (Goyette). It's a tremendous honor going in with them."

In late June, Recchi received the call for which he had waited six years. It was Lanny McDonald, the chairman of the board for the Hockey Hall of Fame, calling to inform him that the selection committee had chosen him to be inducted into the Hall.

"When you've won a few times and had been successful, I thought maybe I had a chance," Recchi said. "You just hope that your body of work is good enough and that they think you're worthy enough to get in here. Fortunately I got that call and I couldn't be more excited."

Recchi, who was the team's director of player development, was in the middle of a team meeting when that call took place. He stepped out of the room to take the call. Recchi was at PPG Paints Arena and rushed to tell his father, Mel, who was at the arena.

"The first time I saw a tear in my dad's eye," Recchi said.

Recchi played 1,652 career NHL games and became just the 10th player to win the Stanley Cup with three different clubs (Pittsburgh, 1991; Carolina, 2006; Boston, 2011). His 1,652 games played rank fourth all-time in NHL history.

"When you think about fourth all-time, the longevity, in the league for 22 seasons, his goal and assist totals, three Stanley Cups with three different teams, so richly deserving," McDonald said. "Sometimes you have to wait a little bit longer than they should have, but he belongs here."

The Kamloops, British Columbia native was the Penguins fourth-round pick (67th overall) in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut with Pittsburgh in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens. He helped the Penguins capture the first Stanley Cup in club history in 1991, scoring the series-winning goal in Game 6 against Boston in the Eastern Conference Final. It's a memory that he cherishes to this day.

"The one that always jumps out is the Game 6 against Boston in the '91 Cup run," he said. "I scored the winning goal there with four minutes left. That one always sticks out to me because it propelled us to the Stanley Cup Final. It's a special moment early on in a young career."

Recchi played with the Penguins from 1988 until being traded to Philadelphia in early 1992. But while with the Penguins he was able to play with Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier and Joey Mullen. If fact, he played between the latter at the start of his career.

"I was very fortunate my first couple of years to be in between Brian Trottier and Joey Mullen," Recchi said. 

Now his face will be emblazoned in the same prestigious building as his idols.

"I grew up idolizing 'Trots,' and then I got to play with him," Recchi said. "Every guy in (the Hall) is in there for a reason. They're great people, they're great hockey players. To be in it with all of them is a tremendous honor. It's not something I take lightly."

With everything that he's accomplished, the thing that Recchi is most proud of is his longevity.

"There are three of us that played over 20 years. It's not an easy sport," he said. "It's a grueling sport. To be able to do that for a long time is something I'm very proud of."

Now all that's left to do is deliver his acceptance speech on Monday.

"I've been off and on for a couple of weeks (working on it)," Recchi said. "I was trying to find time to get it going, but this coaching stuff is a lot of work. I finally have it pretty much nailed down. It'll be fine tuned by Monday."

Video: Mark Recchi answers questions at the HHOF Fan Forum

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