When the NHL recently released this season's list of upcoming milestones, one player's name conspicuously appeared more often than any other.
And, it should be noted, in the most significant of categories.
That's nothing new for Mark Recchi. He has gone through the same thing at the start of the past couple of seasons because that comes with the territory when you are the league's oldest player.
|The 22-year seasoned veteran, Recchi has won Stanley Cups with the Penguins and Hurricanes. (Getty Images)|
Now some might say those numbers suggest the guy is getting a little long in the tooth. Then again, old is relative.
"The way he feels and the way he acts on the ice, he's like a kid," said Boston coach Claude Julien. "He's got a big smile on his face and he's having fun."
Why not? At 42, Recchi is in the prime of his life. As a player, well, not so much. Less than a dozen others have laced up skates at the same chronological stage. Or to put things in a modern-day perspective, consider that the 67th pick in the 1988 draft is someone who can scan the league and see six head coaches younger than he is.
Closer to home, there is a relative kiddie corps surrounding him in Boston, including Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in June and his linemate to start the first preseason game of the year Wednesday in Montreal.
Seguin, by the way, wasn't born until Recchi's fourth season in the NHL.
"He's damn fast," Recchi said. "I gotta keep up with him."
All of this naturally helps facilitate making the veteran forward the butt of early-bird special jokes, but Recchi says he wouldn't have it any other way. He says his thoughts of retirement were fleeting this past summer and ended immediately when the Bruins offered him a new incentive-laden, one-year deal worth $1 million.
"This never gets old, I love playing so why shouldn't I keep on doing it?" said Recchi. "I love getting the chance to play with young kids and helping them develop and grow."
Truth is the mentoring role obviously is a big part of Recchi's mandate with the Bruins, his seventh team in a career that has spanned 22 seasons and included Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh and Carolina. Recchi is certainly still a productive player, appearing in 81 games for Boston last season, picking up 18 goals and 43 points on a two-way line with Patrice Bergeron and various wingers. He figures to be around the 20-goal, mid-40 points area this season depending on how much time he gets on the power play.
Recchi can still set the tone on the ice. In the first round of the playoffs against Buffalo last spring, he separated Tim Kennedy from the puck with a crushing hit and then set up the game-winning goal by Bergeron that changed the series and sparked an upset by Boston.
But as far as the Bruins are concerned, his leadership and presence are as important as what he does on the ice.
"Rex was a terrific player for us and helped our group leadership-wise and he's a Hall of Famer to be and he's going to help some of the young kids," GM Peter Chiarelli said when he re-signed Recchi. "The whole group has to help the younger kids and manage their expectations, manage their lifestyles and all that but someone like Mark who has done it and has done it successfully will be an asset to our team."
That suits Recchi just fine, thank you very much. He has done the confidante thing for a number of young players throughout his career stops, including Saku Koivu in Montreal, Jordan Staal in Pittsburgh and Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay. Now he's charged with helping 18-year-old Seguin figure out what it takes to be a pro.
"Those kids all wanted to be players, they all wanted to learn, that's what makes it so much fun," Recchi said. "If they are willing to learn and willing to listen, there's nothing better for a coach and older players and they're going to get all the help in the world."
Maybe down the road, they'll be able to give something back to the "old guy" who helped them along the way. Not that Recchi is looking for that, mind you.
"Obviously I'm in the twilight of my career, but I get to have fun with young players who I'll be watching for a long time," Recchi said. "It's great because one day I'll be watching with my kids and saying, 'We played together.'
"Hopefully they don't forget me when I call and ask for tickets."