VANCOUVER, British Columbia — There was no press release. No teary announcement. No quiet disappearance into a life on the links.
Last night, Mark Recchi retired from the NHL in the best manner possible, with the Stanley Cup over his head. After Zdeno Chara lifted the Cup and had his time with the trophy, he handed it to Recchi.
“It’s the end for me,’’ Recchi said. “This is the last time I get the chance. I’m going out on top. I couldn’t be happier with this group of guys. Regardless of what happened tonight, this was going to be one of the best groups I ever played with. We’re very fortunate to win. We’re going to enjoy this.’’
The record will show that Old Man Rex, in his 189th and final NHL playoff game, recorded one assist, one takeaway, four wins on four faceoffs, and zero shots in 14:20 of ice time. What the scoresheet doesn’t show is how Recchi touched Game 7, the playoffs, and the entire 2010-11 season to help the Bruins emerge with the Cup.
“I know he’s expressed the fact that if we win the Stanley Cup, he’s done,’’ coach Claude Julien said before the win. “Not because I want him to retire, but I’d like to see him win another Cup. He’s been great for us. We can’t say enough. We’ve talked about him all year. Maybe his speed isn’t where it might have been at one point. But his experience has certainly made up for that. He’s contributed in a lot of different ways, scored some big goals, and made some big plays at opportune times. He’s a guy that shows up every game no matter what the situation is.’’
Recchi has worn an “A’’ on his chest for a reason. He has led by example on the ice and with his wisdom in the dressing room. Last night, Recchi won his third Cup. He won rings with Pittsburgh and Carolina. He is a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Recchi appeared in 1,652 games, fourth most in NHL history behind Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, and Ron Francis, and scored 1,533 points, 12th most all time. Recchi did all that without the best wheels, hardest shot, or biggest stature.
Instead, Recchi used his grit and smarts to contribute in all areas of the ice. As Recchi aged, he altered his game. In his Boston career, which he started when acquired from Tampa Bay for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums, Recchi was a two-way wing who scored his points by poking in and out of the danger areas.
There might not have been a Game 7 — and a Cup, naturally — had it not been for Recchi’s efforts in Game 6. Recchi led the scoring with three assists, helping the Bruins grab a 5-2 win to set up the winner-take-all match.
The Bruins hope they can continue to take advantage of his presence even after his departure. While many critics groused about Recchi’s permanent spot on the No. 2 line, the alternate captain made Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand better players. If they’re together next season, Bergeron and Marchand will need a new right wing. But they should be even better next year because of what they learned from Recchi.
“I was feeling nervous and I asked him to give me some advice,’’ Bergeron said of Recchi on Tuesday night. “He told me to relax, go out there, play the game, and do it for him. It could be his last game. I’ve learned so much from him on and off the ice.’’
In turn, Recchi credited his linemates for his success.
“They made me look good,’’ Recchi said. “They mean the world to me. I’m so happy for all the guys. It’s incredible right now.’’
Lucic brought it home
Vancouver is a very special place for Milan Lucic. The 23-year-old was born here. He won a Memorial Cup in 2006 while playing for his hometown Giants. Later that year, when Vancouver hosted the NHL draft, the Bruins picked Lucic in the second round.
Last night, Lucic added to his bank of Vancouver accomplishments by winning the Cup in front of his family and friends. Lucic led the Boston hit parade with a team-high six thumps in 15:26 of ice time.
“It was awesome,’’ Lucic said. “It was better than awesome. We did exactly what we needed to do.’’
Snezana Lucic, the left wing’s mother, was in attendance. She wasn’t in the house for Game 5, and the Bruins dropped a 1-0 decision. After last night’s win, Lucic’s family, including his mother, hit the ice to celebrate.
“My family’s here now,’’ said Lucic, cutting short his interview, “so I’m outta here.’’
Nobody could complain.
Nathan Horton started the afternoon by pouring melted ice from TD Garden onto the Rogers Arena sheet. He ended it in full gear with the Cup over his head.
“This is a chance of a lifetime,’’ Horton said. “This might not ever happen again. For me to get the opportunity to be here with my teammates to celebrate, it’s very special.’’
Horton lost his chance to play in Game 7 when he was concussed by Aaron Rome in Game 3. Horton said the hit was in the past and that he was happy to win the Cup.
Stephen Walkom and Dan O’Halloran were last night’s referees. Both were at the whistle in the penalty-free Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. They called three penalties last night — interference on Chara, hooking on Lucic, and interference on the Canucks’ Jannik Hansen . . . No surprise in the order of the first four Bruins to lift the Cup: Chara, Recchi, Bergeron, and Tim Thomas. “Every night, with him in nets, we knew we had a chance,’’ Julien said of Thomas.