For Mark Recchi, a summer to remember, highlighted by Hall of Fame nod
Last seen in Boston in a duck boat, hugging and kissing the Stanley Cup in June 2011, Mark Recchi has had himself a pretty good summer.
In a span of a little more than three weeks, June 17-July 11, the 49-year-old Recchi first was promoted to Pittsburgh’s director of player development, then days later learned he was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and finally added the role as an assistant coach with the Penguins.
Oh, and on June 11, the Penguins rubbed out the Predators, clinching their second straight Stanley Cup title.
“Yeah, it’s been a good ride,” said the ever-understated Recchi, reached recently during a vacation break in Florida. “It’s been awesome.”
The crown jewel of Recchi’s summer slamfest, of course, is the Hall recognition. The official induction is Nov. 13 in Toronto, along with Paul Kariya, Temmu Selanne, and Dave Andreychuk. His old employer here in the Hub of Hockey, Jeremy Jacobs, will be the lone honoree this year in the “builder” category.
Recchi was in Pittsburgh, working in the Penguins’ office only days after they repeated as Cup champions, when the phone rang on June 26 with the good news from the Hall. Aware that his name was in the mix for consideration, he was happy to have a distraction, specifically the constant process of reviewing kids in the Penguins’ college, junior, and minor pro ranks.
“You know what, I didn’t know what to expect that day,” he recalled. “I didn’t put my . . . I just kind of let it happen, just kept my mind off it and worked. Obviously, I was hoping, but when I finally got the call, I was pretty happy, I’ll tell you that. Pretty amazing.”
The Hall’s chairman, ex-NHL great Lanny McDonald, was the one to call Recchi with the good news. Noting he felt nearly in shock (“I was like, ‘Whoa, really?!’ ’’), Recchi dashed from his office to tell his father, who accompanied him to the rink that morning, and then phoned home to tell his wife and mother.
After three Stanley Cup championships, 1,652 games, and 1,533 points, he’d earned a tiny piece of immortality alongside the game’s greatest names.
“This is the ultimate . . . to me, this is the pinnacle,” said Recchi, asked to fit the Hall into the context of a career that spanned 22 seasons. “You win championships, it’s awesome, but to be recognized as a Hall of Fame player . . . it’s not a lot of guys when you really think about it. To be recognized as one of those players who deserves to be in there, it’s surreal, really. I can’t imagine it. You know, like from Bobby Orr to [Mario] Lemieux and people I know, it’s incredible.”
Growing up, said Recchi, Gilbert Perreault and Bryan Trottier were two of his favorite players. Now he’s shoulder to shoulder with those greats, along with such Canadiens legends Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau, their career achievements still part of everyday conversation during Recchi’s five seasons in Montreal (1994-99).
“Now to be there with them,” mused Recchi, “that’s icing on the cake, that’s for sure.”
Recchi was at his best tipping pucks in front of the net, where he was expert in gaining position and leveraging against often much bigger opponents. He retired only days after winning his third career Cup, with the Bruins in 2011.
Recchi previously won with the Penguins and Hurricanes, the win in Boston tying him with six others for the league record of most Cup titles (3) with different teams. The others: Al Arbour, Larry Hillman, Mike Keane, Claude Lemieux, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Gord Pettinger (one of his with the Bruins in 1939).
In the summer of 2014, Recchi hooked on with the Penguins in a player development role. He was named to head that department in June when Jason Botterill left the front office to become the Sabres’ general manager. When Rick Tocchet left the coaching staff to become the head coach in Arizona, Recchi added assistant coaching duties, joining Jacques Martin and Mike Buckley on Mike Sullivan’s staff.
Recchi hadn’t been entirely off skates. In his development role, he was often on the ice, helping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Clark Donatelli (ex- of Boston University) during drills. He’s done the same in recent years during the Penguins’ development camps, immediately following the June draft. Long term, though, his thinking has been fixed on perhaps one day being an NHL GM.
“I love the building part,” said Recchi, who co-owns the Kamloops Blazers with Shane Doan, Darryl Sydor, and ex-Bruin Jarome Iginla. “I definitely have aspirations to keep plugging away, keep learning. There is a ton to learn and I think I am doing it the right way. I am learning, taking my time, and getting involved in everything. The team’s been great, letting me get involved in everything. I see how the meetings go from the amateur side to the pro side . . . a ton to learn. I just want to keep getting better and we will see down the line.”
Recchi remains in contact, most often by text, with a few of his pals from the 2011 team in Boston. The last time he talked with Tim Thomas, about a year ago, it was about the ex-netminder’s interest in designing goalie equipment.
“Just the friendships you create,” said Recchi, reflecting on his time here. “And the environment in the city. You can never forget that, you know after not winning in 39 years, you don’t forget how electric the city was, the friendships, the people there. A bunch of the guys on that team, we still follow each other on social media, so it’s great.”
WHOLE NEW WORLD
McAvoy not in college any more
In a span of only a few weeks this spring, Charlie McAvoy wore four sweaters and finished his 2016-17 season with a total of 63 games, the bulk of those (38) as a BU sophomore. His initial post-Comm. Ave. days were spent with the Providence Bruins, prior to suiting up for the Boston varsity and then Team USA at the World Championship. His line after BU: 18 games, 0-6—6. He previously picked up seven more games (and a line of 2-4—6) suiting up the Yanks in the World Junior tourney.
“So, roughly 60 games,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, well aware that McAvoy, only 19, will face an adjustment period when he begins the full-immersion pro life next month. “Well, that’s three-quarters of the way though the season [in the NHL], and if you’re talking playoffs, then  is just past halfway. So prepare yourself . . . in the best-case scenario you are playing close to 100 games.”
Brandon Carlo, who made the Boston blue line last season as a 19-year-old, had an impressive rookie season. Nonetheless, he had stretches when it was obvious the NHL workload was daunting, even for a strapping kid who averaged 65 games over his three junior seasons with Tri-City (WHL) prior to turning pro.
In his six playoff games with Boston, McAvoy proved to be a workhorse, confidently chewing up big minutes (average ice time 26:11, roughly five shifts short of Zdeno Chara’s 28:45). Provided he fits in as seamlessly as Carlo did last season, McAvoy should log about 20 minutes a night.
The overall workload will be unlike anything McAvoy has experienced, and the pace of those minutes, noted Sweeney, also will be different.
“The league itself will test young players,” said Sweeney, who as a Harvard grad needed a half-season in the AHL at age 22 to make his game fit for the NHL. “You have to get your pace up and recover. There’s no pacing yourself. In college, you were able to pace yourself, play in all situations, play 30 minutes in some games. He’s just proven he can play 25 minutes in the NHL. But in a best-case scenario, we don’t want him playing that much. We want him to blend into our group, and who knows what he plays . . . but I think he’s a 20-minute guy, depending how games break on the special-teams side of things.”
Sweeney’s words of wisdom for McAvoy: settle in and focus.
“I gave him that cautionary tale,” said Sweeney, referring first to the adjustment in playing minutes. “The other thing I wanted him to understand is, ‘Get your feet on the ground this summer . . . it’s been a bit of a whirlwind . . . you’ve left school, you went to Providence, you ended up in the NHL playoffs, then the World Championship. This is all new. You’ve dipped your toe, but the whole league, and what you’re entering, is all new, you’ve got some learning to do.’ That includes everything, how to spend spare time, travel, even food. It’s an adjustment.”
Sweeney said the details have not been finalized, but McAvoy will live with a teammate to start the season, possibly as a roommate or simply as a tenant elsewhere in the same apartment building or condo unit.
Clock is ticking on Pastrnak deal
The Bruins rookies start camp at Warrior Ice Arena in less than two weeks (Sept. 7), followed a week later by the varsity. No. 1 right wing David Pastrnak remains unsigned, his contract negotiations still this side of impasse status with camp yet to open for business.
The Bruins have offered Pastrnak $6 million a year long term, leaving it up to him to elect the length — six or seven years. Pastrnak has yet to bite on what would be a guarantee of $36 million or $42 million, his average wage only $125,000 per annum short of Brad Marchand’s deal (eight years, $49 million).
If you think this is going the pack-your-bags way of Phil Kessel, Dougie Hamilton, and Tyler Seguin, don’t bet on it.
“We like him,” Sweeney said, emphatically. “We are not trading him.”
The fly in the massage oil, of course, is the eight-year, $68 million deal the Oilers forked over for Leon Draisaitl, his numbers in line with Pastrnak’s résumé, albeit the fact that Draisaitl is a center and top pivots historically do a bit better at the bank.
Lacking in arbitration rights, Pastrnak’s options seem few. He can probably jiggle his average a little higher ($6.5 million?) over 5-7 years, or shoot for something slightly lower ($5.5 million) on a one- or two-year deal.
Per the collective bargaining agreement, if he is not signed by Dec. 1 at 5 p.m., he cannot play in the NHL this season — no comfort to him, no comfort for the Bruins.
“There is plenty of time between now and then,” said Sweeney. “We will continue to talk. We will find a landing spot. There are deadlines that exist, but I believe it’s a disservice to the player and the team to miss training camp, to be late for training camp, and to start the season. I don’t think anyone recovers the money. I don’t think anybody recovers the lost service time — team or player. It’s been proven. The team gets off to a slow start. It’s just completely disruptive. So my feeling has been all along, we are going to negotiate in complete good faith.”
Long ago, hockey was his business
The Hub’s real estate pages lit up a little more than a year ago with the purchase of the 13,000-square-foot penthouse at the glitzy downtown Millennium Tower, which listed for a whopping $37.5 million (the city’s priciest residence at the time).
The billionaire buyer, John Grayken, was identified mainly for his successful equity firm, Lone Star Funds. He grew up in Cohasset and graduated from Harvard Business School in 1982.
Lost in the fine print: Grayken was a hockey guy long before he was a financier. A 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound defenseman, he played three seasons for the Penn varsity, wrapping up there in 1977-78, which was also the final season of Quaker hockey.
Ex-NHL referee Paul Stewart, who holds the dream of one day helping Penn revive a Division 1 hockey program, was one of Grayken’s Quaker teammates for a year.
“He challenged me to a couple of fights,” said Stewart, recalling the first of those bouts was during summer hockey in Hingham. “A bright guy, looked tough . . . but it wasn’t a smart plan on his part. We fought a second time my junior year at Penn — again, not a good result for him.”
Stevens in a better place
At Mark Recchi’s suggestion, the Penguins this summer invited Kevin Stevens to their development camp, where he skated every day with the prospects, Stevens, whose glory years were spent in Pittsburgh, where Recchi was a teammate, is sober these days after a long battle with substance addiction.
According to Recchi, Stevens did a “good job” of telling the prospects about his struggle to regain sobriety.
“He’s the guy I knew before all this happened,” said Recchi, who has remained one of Stevens’s closest pals throughout the big winger’s travails. “It was so good to be around him. He was the guy I grew up with, and first started playing with. He’s full of life, full of everything . . . so it was great.
“He knows it’s going to be a battle, but I think he likes this guy better than he liked the other guy.”
Ex-BU defenseman Doyle Somerby, originally an Islanders draft pick (No. 125, 2012), scored a two-year deal with the Blue Jackets. He became a free agent Aug. 15, utilizing the so-called loophole in the CBA that allows college players to claim unrestricted status if they complete four seasons in academia . . . The Bruins play the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 11, only two days prior to the Hall of Fame inductions of Mark Recchi and Jeremy Jacobs . . . Among the two big signings to watch for next summer: John Tavares and Jack Eichel. Tavares will be a 27-year-old UFA, with nine impressive seasons (.915 points per game thus far) logged with the Islanders. Eichel will be 21, his entry-level contract with Buffalo finished. Figure them both to come in around $10 million per season. Different ages and circumstances, but each will be drenched in dollars . . . Ex-NHL star Martin St. Louis and Jeff Hamilton (ex-Yale winger) have joined other partners in forming the Seven7 investment firm. The firm’s focus will be on companies in the consumer, tech, and media sectors . . . Maine, Providence, Clarkson, and RPI will head to Belfast over the Thanksgiving break to play in the Friendship Four tournament. The winner is awarded the Belpot, an old school bell so named in part because ex-BU Terriers Steve Thornton and Shane Johnson played for years in Belfast and helped organize the tourney. The Bruins played an exhibition game in the same Belfast rink in September 2010, prior to beginning the season that led to their Stanley Cup win . . . As for the Beanpot, tournament organizers recently decided to name the tournament MVP award after Steve Nazro. The tournament’s guiding hand at the Garden for decades, Nazro is currently wrapping up his 50-plus years on Causeway Street and will be on the ice in February to present the “Naz.”