PHILADELPHIA — Like all the 27 members who preceded him into the Flyers Hall of Fame, Mark Recchi competed as a player who left nothing on the table.
You can talk about goals and points all you want. The bottom line is Recchi didn’t want to just beat you with his offense, he wanted to “out-will” you in all aspects of the game. And knock you on your butt if necessary.
While he didn’t win a Stanley Cup with the Flyers, he did capture hockey’s ultimate prize with three other teams – Pittsburgh, Carolina and Boston. He was an integral part of all three championships and that’s what helped land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Recchi is set to be inducted in ceremonies prior to Saturday afternoon’s Flyers-Bruins game at the Wells Fargo Center.
This one will mean a lot because Recchi spent more time with and played more games (602) for the Flyers than any of the seven NHL teams he played for (including runnerup Pittsburgh, 389).
“It (the Flyers Hall of Fame) is an incredible honor,” Recchi said at a press conference prior to Friday night’s Flyers-Bruins Alumni Game. “This is a special place. It’s been an awesome place to play.
“For me, watching what’s going on now, it’s family again. To me, that’s the most important thing. As a proud Flyer, I’m excited for the future of this organization. I’m super-thrilled to be a part of tomorrow (Saturday). I’m humbled to be a part of it.”
The Flyers made it to Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals (vs. New Jersey) and 2004 (vs. Tampa Bay). While they didn’t win either series, they sure gave it their all.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about that the last couple weeks,” Recchi said. “Great memories of those groups because we had so much fun together. We were a family, a team, as tight as it got. We didn’t end up winning but we felt like winners because we really had a special group for those four or five years.
“We truly loved each other. We had a blast on and off the ice. And we held each other accountable. Things that you would expect on great teams. That’s what made it so much fun.”
Leadership is a word you hear associated with Recchi’s name quite a bit.
“When I first game to Philadelphia I was still fairly young,” Recchi said of his trade from the Penguins in the early ‘90s. “My second stint (after five years in Montreal), I was starting to get a little older. I became more of a complete player by the time I got here the second time. I learned the importance of being a great two-way player.”
Also at the press conference were Flyers president of hockey operations Keith Jones and CEO Dan Hilferty.
Hilferty has only been in his position a short time but he knows all about Recchi and what he brought to the sport.
“He was in the corners all the time,” said Hilferty. “He did the dirty work to make things happen for the club and for the city. To have him a member of our Hall of Fame is so exciting.”
Added Jones: “I have a great respect for the way he played the game. He had the ‘it’ factor, something we’re looking for in every player we assess. Mark had everything you want in a hockey player. He played aggressively when necessary. Very rarely lost a puck battle. Scored some huge, timely goals.”
One of Recchi’s more decorated teammates, John LeClair, said No. 8’s fierce drive to score was what helped make him such a special player.
“He had it all,” LeClair said after the morning skate. “Unbelievable talent, a great teammate, on and off the ice. He was a big leader for us. He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame, that tells you everything. And he’s one of my favorite teammates.
“As a teammate, playing with him, I respected him so much. . .his ability and how he handled himself.”
Recchi could score from crazy angles, from in-close or off the rush. He was a threat every time he stepped on the ice.
“It was his determination,” LeClair said. “He had a mindset that
‘I’m going to make a difference every time I’m on the ice.’ It showed in his play. The guy played with so much energy. That kind of lifted the team, watching his energy.”
Former goaltender Robert Esche used to carpool with Recchi from their homes in Haddonfield, N.J. to what is now the Wells Fargo Center. You can learn a lot about someone by sitting alongside someone on a drive over the same roads day after day.
“He’s genuinely one of the nicest guys that I played with in the NHL,” Esche said. “Just all class. I really appreciate coming in underneath him. He really taught me a lot, taught me how to be a professional, how to remain focused.
“And he did it in such an easy way that it wasn’t even work to him. He had the ability to do that, day in and day out.”