On hockey

Recchi has a winning plan

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / March 30, 2011

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He’s not out of here, but Mark Recchi, now No. 12 on the NHL’s all-time scoring list, has an exit strategy.

He would like to hold the Stanley Cup high over his head in June, wrap his arms around it for a third time, and then go find out where life’s road leads when he’s not wearing skates.

“If we win a championship, I’m gone,’’ Recchi said last night, moments after the Bruins wrapped up a 3-0 win over the Blackhawks, a triumph that included Recchi’s 1,532d career point. “That would make it easy to go. That’s what I’d like.’’

Recchi’s assist, on Johnny Boychuk’s goal that made it 2-0 late in the second period, inched the 43-year-old winger ahead of ex-Penguins’ teammate Paul Coffey on the totem pole of life’s little achievements. He is now 47 points behind Bruins legend Ray Bourque for the No. 11 spot and 58 behind another Hub icon, Phil Esposito, for No. 10.

With career totals of 576 goals and 956 assists, Recchi conceivably could keep chugging along and become only the ninth NHLer to reach 600 goals and 1,000 assists. Not important, he said. Those aren’t numbers he’s had in mind. All the points, all the practices, all the games (1,647, with 1,648 at the Garden tomorrow night) now compact into one wish: a career that ends with a win, a Cup, and an exit stage right to retirement.

And if not?

“Then I’ll see how I’ll recover when it’s over,’’ he mused, not sounding like a man who expects to celebrate his 44th birthday (Feb. 1, 2012) stuck, say, on a Bruins charter between the moon and New York City. “After 3-4 weeks, I’ll see if I can get in the grind again, if my body can be ready to play.’’

The amazing thing about Recchi, the oldest player in today’s NHL, is that he still reports to work as if Game No. sixteen-hundred-and-something is one of his first days on the job. He still has the hop, the freshness, the little bit of it’s-a-new-day-so-let’s-make-it-a-great-one twinkle in his eye. Not easy in a very tough game, one that sometimes has rookies wondering how they’ll get through year No. 1 without having flesh and soul ripped from their fit, young frames.

“I feel blessed to have a chance to be on a line with him,’’ said his pivot, Patrice Bergeron, who led the expanded hug committee that kept wrapping their arms around Recchi immediately after Boychuk’s shot went in the net. “It’s just unbelievable if you think about it.’’

All the points. Almost impossible to fathom. Recchi will enter the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, once he is eligible three years out of retirement. Of the eight players to score 600 goals and 1,000 points, six are in the Hall of Fame, and both Joe Sakic and Jaromir Jagr have their spots waiting for them. Fine company for the 5-foot-10-inch waterbug from Kamloops, British Columbia, who was considered a bit of a gamble when the Penguins selected him 67th overall in the 1988 draft.

“I wasn’t supposed to make it,’’ said Recchi. “I was small, and that was a time when they were drafting monsters, no matter what.’’

The whys and hows of his making it are many. He could always skate, though his stride is short and slightly unorthodox. He has always preferred a direct route to the net.

“Nothing fancy,’’ he said last night, summing up his style. “Just a north-south player. There was a time that I could both shoot and pass — they didn’t know what to expect — and now, well, I’m more of a playmaker, obviously. And I always had pretty good vision.’’

His eyes had it again last night when he made a short dish on the right wing, a bank pass that sent the puck Boychuk’s way above the circle. Boychuk’s shot eluded Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford and the Recchi hug fest broke out to the delight of the sellout crowd of 17,565. When his milestone was announced, some of the Causewayites rose to their feet and an appreciative Recchi jumped off the bench, waved his stick and clapped his gloves to return the love.

“As soon as I scored, I didn’t even want to celebrate,’’ said Boychuk. “And that’s the way it should be. We just wanted to get him the puck.’’

The days are growing fewer. Recchi has these six regular-season games left on his life’s calendar (for a total 1,653) and then at least one playoff round that will build on his postseason totals (164 games/133 points). He has seen his name etched twice into the Cup, first with the ’91 Penguins and then again with the ’06 Canes.

Now, like Boston itself, he’d like to know that championship feel one more time. Then it’s time to take a final bow and find out where life’s forwarding address leads.

“I’m hoping we go on a long ride,’’ he said. “It just makes it easy for me to say, ‘See you later.’ We win and I say I’m gone.’’

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at

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