It was, for Mark Recchi, a wild ride. A ride that began with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, not far from where it ended Wednesday night, with the third Stanley Cup championship of his illustrious, if unexpected, career.
Recchi came to the NHL as a fourth-rounder - too small, and too slow, some said. But he wasn't and championships with the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins of the Mario Lemieux era, the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes of the Eric Staal era and now the 2011 Boston Bruins of the Tim Thomas era proved that.
Recchi is 43, the second oldest player to win a Stanley Cup after Chris Chelios. Following the Bruins' 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks last night, he announced that this would be it for him.
"This is where I started playing hockey, in British Columbia," Recchi said. "To end it here, I couldn't ask for anything more. I'm going to ride off in the sunset and enjoy myself."
Brad Marchand, some 20 years Recchi's junior, is just breaking in, but they played together throughout these playoffs, on the line with Patrice Bergeron. According to Marchand, Recchi's tangible and intangible contributions were invaluable to the team, as they needed to go the distance in three of the four series. Recchi, said Marchand, provided inspiration and leadership for everyone in the dressing room, young and old.
"He's had such an unbelievable career and he topped it off with another Stanley Cup," Marchand said. "All playoffs, he stepped up at the right time. You saw him in Game 6, he had three assists. Best player on the ice tonight, he did all the little things right. He just kept pushing us in the dressing room. He knows what to say at the right time - and we wouldn't have won it if he wasn't on our team."
Recchi played 1,652 regular-season games and 190 in the playoffs.
"We were deep, we were strong, we were big and we could skate," said Recchi, whose only regret was that his parents couldn't watch the game live, because his mother had an operation Tuesday. But they were with him in spirit - and he was getting on the phone to them as soon as the interviews were over.
"I didn't think many teams could matchup with us in a seven-game series - and we showed that. We showed a ton of resilience in big games. When we had our backs to the wall, we played our best hockey," Recchi said.