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Recchi honored, humbled to enter Hockey Hall of Fame

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

A day after returning from the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, Penguins director of player development Mark Recchi was in a meeting at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Monday when his phone rang.

It was Lanny McDonald, chairman of the board of the Hockey Hall of Fame - calling to let Recchi know that the wait was over. Recchi had finally been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"I never expected this when I started playing in the NHL," Recchi said. "To get this call today from Lanny, it was incredible. It's an unbelievable honor and I can't believe how excited I am about this."

Recchi is the NHL's 12th all-time leading scorer with 1,533 points in 1,652 games - the fifth-most regular-season games played in league history. Recchi ended up winning three Stanley Cups (Pittsburgh, 1991; Carolina, 2006; Boston, 2011) during his 22 years in the NHL, with his longevity being arguably the most impressive aspect of his career.

"It was just an honor to play 22 years and obviously, to stay healthy through that, it was never easy," he said. "But taking care of myself on and off the ice was a huge part of it. Being prepared to play every day and being mentally prepared obviously helped me. I just love playing the game and I love getting out there, so whatever I could do to play, I did."

Recchi played for seven different teams over his lengthy career, but the one he kept coming back to was Pittsburgh. After the Penguins drafted him in the fourth round (67th overall) of the 1988 NHL Draft, he won his first championship with Pittsburgh in 1991.

Recchi became the seventh player from that team to make it into the Hall of Fame, joining Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy and Bryan Trottier.

"It's absolutely incredible and humbling," Recchi said of joining those teammates. "They're all great friends and to be in there with them and to play with them and now to join them in this is something incredible."

Recchi ended up spending a total of three stints in the Steel City, skating alongside generational talents each time. After starting his career along players like Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, Recchi was Sidney Crosby's first linemate in the NHL when he returned years later.

Recchi then joined the Penguins front office in July of 2014, earning a promotion to his current title earlier this month - winning two Stanley Cups as a member of hockey ops in 2016 and '17. It's a city that has had a huge impact on his long playing career that is now officially a Hall of Fame career.

"Pittsburgh became my home," he said. "I pretty much stayed here through all the times, wherever I was. So it was just a seamless transition to go back. I didn't foresee playing for seven teams (laughs), bouncing back and forth in between with Pittsburgh. But obviously I think Pittsburgh's a great place to live and a great city to be in and a great place to raise my kids."

Recchi had to wait three years after becoming eligible to receive the honor, but said it didn't matter how long he had to wait. He would have waited as long as it took to become elected, knowing that he had done what he could and it was out of his hands at this point.

"It's something where it had to play out its course and if I got in, wonderful," he said. "I did what I could on the ice and if it was good enough, it was good enough. I had a wonderful career, I had wonderful teammates, I was fortunate to win and this is the ultimate to finish it off. You can only do so much and you've got to let your numbers and your play dictate where it gets you.

"It was just something where you hope it's good enough at some point, and whether it was now or a couple years from now or whatever - 10 years - to get in is just something that's the ultimate prize and an amazing feeling."

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