The Penguins selected a kid from Kamloops, British Columbia named Mark Recchi
in the fourth round of the NHL Draft back in 1988.
Now three Stanley Cups, 577 goals, 956 assists, 1,533 points, 1,652 games and one Hall of Fame career later, Recchi has circled back to where it all began for him.
As the Penguins’ new player development coach, Recchi will be responsible for working with and assisting in the development of young prospects throughout the organization in the minor leagues as well as in junior and college hockey. He’s a perfect fit for the job as he can identify with these players better than anyone, because he was them at one point.
“A lot of it is going to be more mental than anything,” Recchi said. “You can teach kids body position, certain little things, detail things. Absolutely, there’s some stuff on the ice you can teach them. A lot of it is going to teach them how to be a pro on and off the ice.
“It’s probably different with every kid, every young guy that comes up here. That’s where you get a good feel for it, you can feel whether a kid needs to work on some areas, whether he needs to work on his skills every day or work on his consistency. Different things befall young players. You can pick them up pretty quick. It’s just a matter of working with them from there.”
Another former NHLer, Bill Guerin, was Pittsburgh’s player development coach before being promoted to assistant GM in June – and he couldn’t think of a more fitting replacement for this position than Recchi.
“I think he’s going to be great. He’s a good friend and he’s just got so much to offer,” Guerin said before adding with a smile, “I think he played 40 years in the league.”
Actually, Recchi played 22 years. And in the later stages of his long and fruitful career, he served as an invaluable mentor to his younger teammates.
He was especially important to the Boston Bruins during their Cup run in 2011. Recchi mentored their young core of players, most notably then 22-year-old linemate Brad Marchand, who played a key agitator role while scoring big goals as well.
“I always liked it, I always enjoyed helping young guys out getting into the league or if they’re going through different things and tough times,” Recchi said. “To helping them find cars, little things like that, it’s a different world. You’re 20 years old coming from junior or college or whatever you’ve been doing, and it’s a different world. You help out as much as you can and make it easy so their focus is just playing hockey and learning that part of it.”
He’ll certainly be able to bring all of that to his new management role with Pittsburgh.
“Mark’s fantastic with younger players,” Guerin said. “Especially later in his career with the Bruins, he was invaluable to that team to teach that group how to win. I think Mark’s going to do a terrific job. We’re really excited to have him on board. I know I am. He’s a good quality guy. A future Hall of Famer. To have him on our staff is fantastic.”
Personally, Recchi was able to quickly figure out how to be a successful pro. In his first of three stints with the Penguins, he led Pittsburgh in regular-season scoring as a 22-year-old in 1990-91 with 40 goals and 113 points in 78 games – before adding 10 goals and 34 points in 24 playoff games as the franchise won their first Cup.
He said the biggest part of having an NHL mentality is consistency.
“I just always was able to keep my focus, keep my consistency,” Recchi said. “That was one of the biggest things I always wanted to do, from the day I started to the day I finished, was to be somebody that you could count on every night. That’s something these kids have to mentally prepare (to do). It can be a grind and there’s dog days during the season where you have to really push yourself through.”
After retiring following his third Cup win with Boston, Recchi – who lives in Pittsburgh – spent the past two years involved with the Penguins Elite youth hockey program and was also a senior advisor in the Dallas Stars organization.
“(Working for Dallas) was more or less trying to keep my foot in the door and also learn the management side, the other side of the game,” Recchi said. “This made all the sense in the world for me. I’m here, this is where I live. I’m able to be at home and then also do some traveling and help these kids out.
“It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting and I’m excited to get it going here.”